This year’s Molecular Ecology Prize is awarded to Dr. Uma Ramakrishnan, a Professor of Ecology and Evolution at the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore, India.
Dr. Ramakrishnan is best known for her studies on the tiger and other large mammals, which are the “poster children” for India’s natural resources. Her studies have included census estimates from combined camera trap and genetic surveys, historical inferences from genetic data and museum specimens, and demonstrations of gene flow impacting genomic variation and inbreeding depression. Dr. Ramakrishnan’s research has led to valuable conservation applications, for example by providing evidence used in a Supreme Court ruling that wildlife corridors must be included in certain highway expansions. Dr. Ramakrishnan’s work on science communication and community service is exemplary, and she is an important role model to scientists around the world.
Dr. Ramakrishnan joins the previous winners of the Molecular Ecology Prize: Godfrey Hewitt, John Avise, Pierre Taberlet, Harry Smith, Terry Burke, Josephine Pemberton, Deborah Charlesworth, Craig Moritz, Laurent Excoffier, Johanna Schmitt, Fred Allendorf, Louis Bernatchez, Nancy Moran, Robin Waples, Scott Edwards, Victoria Sork, Fuwen Wei, and Kerstin Johannesson.
The Molecular Ecology Prize Committee is pleased to announce that the 2022 Molecular Ecology prize has been awarded to Dr. Kerstin Johannesson, Professor of Marine Ecology, University of Gothenburg, Sweden. Trained as a marine ecologist, her research over the past 40 years has focussed on understanding how marine organisms become adapted to their environment. Towards this goal, she performed pioneering molecular ecology work that fully integrated ecological and molecular approaches to study the sea snail, Littorina saxatilis, which she developed into a model species. Her work has inspired numerous researchers across Europe to also use Littorina as an ideal model to study the ‘tug of war’ between evolutionary forces that have driven ecotypic divergence across different habitats of littoral zones. She has authored 150 peer-reviewed articles, which have been cited nearly 9,000 times with an h-index of 56. She has trained 35 Ph.D. students and postdocs from Europe and abroad. Her impressive accomplishments have earned her 10 major awards, the most prestigious being The Swedish Börssällskapet Research Award and election to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. She also has received awards (e.g., the Swedish “Kunskapspriset”) in recognition of her outreach activities and the impact of her science on society. In brief, Dr. Johannesson has been a pioneer and is still an influential leader in the field of marine molecular ecology in Europe and beyond.
Dr. Johannesson joins the previous winners of the Molecular Ecology Prize: Godfrey Hewitt, John Avise, Pierre Taberlet, Harry Smith, Terry Burke, Josephine Pemberton, Deborah Charlesworth, Craig Moritz, Laurent Excoffier, Johanna Schmitt, Fred Allendorf, Louis Bernatchez, Nancy Moran, Robin Waples, Scott Edwards, Victoria Sork, and Fuwen Wei.
The Junior Editorial Board at Molecular Ecology have released a survey to gauge which topics current researchers in the field would like to be reviewed or synthesised. This survey is designed to help us understand which review and synthesis topics will be relevant, helpful and inspiring for our readership, and will guide our review and synthesis invitations over the coming months.
Before completing this survey, it may be beneficial to read the journal’s expectations for the scope of such manuscripts.
Review papers should aim to move the field forward by summarising past research on a given topic, highlighting questions that remain unanswered and proposing new directions for the field. Click herefor an example of one of our most popular recent review papers.
Syntheses should bring together data from many studies in order to address an important hypothesis in ecology or evolution. Click here for an example of one of our most popular recent synthesis papers.
Both Reviews and Syntheses should aim to make a major contribution to the field of molecular ecology by presenting fresh perspectives on important topics.
The survey asks for broad Review and Synthesis themes that you would be interested in reading. In addition, you are given the opportunity to pitch Review and Synthesis ideas. While we ask for suggested authors, please bear in mind that there is no guarantee that suggested authors will be invited to submit a review. If you have a specific review or synthesis idea that you would like to write, please visit thiswebpage. Here you will find details on presubmission enquiries, manuscript formatting and final submission.
The Molecular Ecology Prize Committee is pleased to announce that the 2021 Molecular Ecology prize has been awarded to Dr. Fuwen Wei, Professor of Animal Ecology and Conservation Biology in the Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences. Dr. Wei is a pioneer in conservation genomics and metagenomics of endangered animals, focusing mainly on giant and red pandas. He has applied genetic and genomic techniques to assess the past, present and future of giant panda populations, infer their evolutionary and demographic processes, and reveal their adaptive mechanisms for feeding on their specialized bamboo diet. He also has proposed and elaborated targeted strategies for the long‐term survival of pandas, which were featured in Science as “Hope for Wild Pandas”. With 5 books and over 270 peer-reviewed journal articles, he is a global leader in molecular ecology and conservation genomics. He has also trained numerous students and postdocs, and fostered international cooperation among zoologists and conservation biologists. His impressive accomplishments have earned him numerous awards and recognition, for instance, the Lifetime Achievement Award for Giant Panda Research and Conservation and the Outstanding Science and Technology Achievement Prize of Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Dr. Wei joins the previous winners of the Molecular Ecology Prize: Godfrey Hewitt, John Avise, Pierre Taberlet, Harry Smith, Terry Burke, Josephine Pemberton, Deborah Charlesworth, Craig Moritz, Laurent Excoffier, Johanna Schmitt, Fred Allendorf, Louis Bernatchez, Nancy Moran, Robin Waples, Scott Edwards, and Victoria Sork.
We are really excited to get a sneak peak into the story behind a new Special Feature in Molecular Ecology Resources focusing on the use of genomic techniques to better understand natural history collections. In this Special Feature, the authors led by Assistant Professor Lua Lopez, compiled a broad range of studies using a variety of methods to illustrate the enormous potential of museum samples to answer question fundamental to molecular ecology. See below for a video interview with Lua and the article. Check out the great set of articles in the special feature here.
What led you to put together a special issue on this topic?
My first contact with ancient genomics was during my postdoc at PSU at the Lasky Lab. As soon as I started looking for literature to help me get the project started I realized that, except in the field of human ancient genomics, information was scattered and it was not easy to find methodological papers for wet-lab or bioinformatics of this type of data. We were lacking a strong foundation of studies using a combination of ancient, historical and modern samples stored in museums. Because of all this I wanted to put together an issue compiling a critical mass of studies using Natural History Collections (NCH) to advance the field of evolutionary biology. Although I had been thinking for a while about this, I only adventured to put this together when two new postdocs also working with NHC samples joined the lab, Dr. Kathryn Turner and Dr. Emilly Bellis. The three of us, together with our postdocsupervisor Jesse Lasky, decided it was time to get this running and I am very excited with the result.
2. Of the papers in the special feature, can you identify any broad trends?
All papers provide a significant advance in important methodological steps (from DNA extraction to data analysis) facilitating the use of NHC sample in evolutionary studies. The data used to test the methods in these papers provide a glimpse of the new research avenues that NHC samples can open.
3. What did you find the most surprising about the papers in this feature?
It was incredible to see how many fields can benefit from using NHC samples. This issue does not only cover methodological aspects but it shows how NHC samples can help answer long-standing questions in the fields of metagenomics, epigenetics, conservation genomics, evolutionary ecology and phylogenetics.
4. What do you recommend to researchers trying to collect genomic data from natural history collections?
Contact as many NHCs as you can. There are still many collections that are not digitized and being aware of what is available that can have a large impact in your experimental design. If this is your first time working with NHC samples, team up, genetic studies with NCH samples can be a big challenge (high risk, high reward). Having someone with experience to guide you is going to be one of the best things you can do to ensure the success of your research.
5. What do you think are crucial next research steps to effectively utilizing natural history collections?
I strongly believe that the next steps include digitizing NHC collections and archiving DNA data. Many NHC samples are not yet digitized and researchers looking a particular species can only obtain a partial picture of what’s available for their studies. The accuracy we have to answer particular questions is, in most cases, determined by the samples we have access to (i.e. number of samples, geographical and temporal distribution). In addition, any genetic data obtained from NHC samples should be publicly available. By having access to larger data sets we can not only increase the accuracy of our results but we can also better predict future scenarios.
6. What (if any) method advances are needed?
In the past 10-20 years, we have improved enormously in our wet lab protocols and bioinfomatics but the intrinsic nature of DNA from NHC samples means that we still have a long way to go. Ideally, we want standardize protocols for large taxonomic groups and identify what kind of factors have a larger impact in DNA damage. This also applies for pipelines for data analysis, in general the more standardized protocols are the best, it will hep us comparing results among studies and trying to identify broad evolutionary patters.
7. What would your message be for students about to start their first research projects on this topic?
Understand what kind of samples you have in your hands. It’s not only about how old they are, it’s also about how where they preserve after sampling and during storage, where are they coming from, how much material you have, etc. Many factors are going to influence the success of obtaining DNA of enough quality for downstream analysis. And the same goes for the data analysis, make sure you are considering the particular nature of the genetic data that you are analyzing. NHC samples are precious and destructive sampling cannot be done lightly. So, always do a test run and ask all the questions that you have.
The Molecular Ecology Prize Committee is pleased to announce that the 2020 Molecular Ecology prize has been awarded to Dr. Victoria Sork, Distinguished Professor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Dean of Life Sciences, and Director of the Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden at University of California Los Angeles. Throughout her career, Dr. Sork has made substantial and diverse scientific contributions to the field of molecular ecology – from working to build the foundation of landscape genetics, to pioneering the use of molecular markers in tracking plant dispersal, to unraveling the genomic and epi-genomic basis of climate adaptation in non-model organisms. With well over 100 publications, she has proven herself to be a preeminent scholar in her field for decades, while serving as a role model and mentor for many early career scientists, and as a continual advocate for increasing diversity and inclusion in STEM.
Dr. Sork joins the previous winners of the Molecular Ecology Prize: Godfrey Hewitt, John Avise, Pierre Taberlet, Harry Smith, Terry Burke, Josephine Pemberton, Deborah Charlesworth, Craig Moritz, Laurent Excoffier, Johanna Schmitt, Fred Allendorf, Louis Bernatchez, Nancy Moran, Robin Waples, and Scott Edwards.
Nominations are now open for the annual Molecular Ecology Prize.
The field of molecular ecology is young and inherently interdisciplinary. As a consequence, research in molecular ecology is not currently represented by a single scientific society, so there is no body that actively promotes the discipline or recognizes its pioneers. The editorial board of the journal Molecular Ecology therefore created the Molecular Ecology Prize in order to fill this void, and recognize significant contributions to this area of research. The prize selection committee is independent of the journal and its editorial board.
The prize will go to an outstanding scientist who has made significant contributions to molecular ecology. These contributions would mostly be scientific, but the door is open for other kinds of contributions that were crucial to the development of the field. The previous winners are: Godfrey Hewitt, John Avise, Pierre Taberlet, Harry Smith, Terry Burke, Josephine Pemberton, Deborah Charlesworth, Craig Moritz, Laurent Excoffier, Johanna Schmitt, Fred Allendorf, Louis Bernatchez, Nancy Moran, Robin Waples, and Scott Edwards.
Please send your nomination with a short supporting statement (no more than 250 words; longer submissions will not be accepted) and the candidate’s CV directly to Andrea Sweigart (email@example.com) by Thursday, April 2, 2020. Organized campaigns to submit multiple nominations for the same person are not necessary and can be counterproductive. Also, note that nominations from previous years do not roll over.
With thanks on behalf of the Molecular Ecology Prize Selection Committee
The editorial board of the journal Molecular Ecology is seeking nominations for the Harry Smith Prize, which recognizes the best paper published in Molecular Ecology in the previous year by graduate students or early career scholars with no more than five years of postdoctoral or fellowship experience. The prize comes with a cash award of US$1000 and an announcement in the journal and in the Molecular Ecologist. The winner will also be asked to join a junior editorial board for the journal to offer advice on changing research needs and potentially serve as a guest editor. The winner of this annual prize is selected by the junior editorial board.
The prize is named after Professor Harry Smith FRS, who founded the journal and served as both its Chief and Managing Editor during the journal’s critical early years. He continued as the journal’s Managing Editor until 2008, and he went out of his way to encourage early career scholars. In addition to his editorial work, Harry was one of the world’s foremost researchers in photomorphogenesis, where he determined how plants respond to shading, leading to concepts such as “neighbour detection” and “shade avoidance,” which are fundamental to understanding plant responses to crowding and competition. More broadly his research provided an early example of how molecular data could inform ecology, and in 2008 he was awarded the Molecular Ecology Prize that recognized both his scientific and editorial contributions to the field.
Please send a PDF of the paper you are nominating, with a short supporting statement (no more than 250 words; longer submissions will not be accepted) directly to Dr. Janna Willoughby (firstname.lastname@example.org) by 31 May 2020. Self-nominations are accepted.
In this special new-years post we interview the Chief Editor of MER Shawn Narum. Shawn, based at the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission and the University of Idaho, has been chief editor for over 5 years. In this interview we get his perspective on the journal and the field in general as well as his advice for early career researchers.
See this link for a past interview with Shawn all the way back in 2014 with the Molecular Ecologist and this link for his 2020 editorial.
What are some of the main changes you have witnessed in the field of molecular ecology since you became Chief Editor of MER?
The advancement of molecular and statistical methods have driven the field of molecular ecology to new heights. Questions that were previously out of reach can now be addressed for most non-model species with careful study design.
What methods and resources do you think the field needs in the future?
Advances in sequencing methods have lead to fascinating discoveries of candidate genes associated with local adaptation and phenotypic variation many species, but development of candidate markers for intensive testing and validation is lacking. For example, bioinformatic resources are needed that efficiently and accurately develop primers/baits for specific subsets of markers that can be genotyped cost effectively in many individuals (e.g., Meek & Larson, 2019).
What are some of your favourite scientific discoveries from the past two decades?
As a fish geek, I also very much enjoyed the discovery that there is a warm blooded fish! It has long been known that some species like tuna and swordfish exhibit partial endothermy in brain tissue, but discovery of whole body endothermy in Opah living in cold, deep seas makes me smile (Wegner et al., 2015).
What advice would you give students wanting to develop a career in science?
Establish close collaborations with colleagues that you trust and nurture those relationships for the long-term.
What advice would you give to your younger-self about science and life?
Seize opportunities to work with others in a team environment, but it is OK to turn down some opportunities when there is already too much on your plate. “Too much” is when you can’t keep up with expectations that you have for yourself or projects substantially interfere with spending time with the people you love
What is your writing style like? Do you have some favourite writers that inspired you earlier on during your career?
My writing tends to be structured following a mental or written outline for clearly defined study questions. I have always been inspired by papers coming from Louis Bernatchez and have been grateful to have co-authored a few recent articles with him.
What are someof the aspects of your job asa scientist that you enjoy the most?
Two of the most rewarding aspects of my work are being involved with the development of young scientists and making new genomic discoveries that contribute towards conservation and recovery of naturally occurring species.
Outside of sequencing, what is your favourite methodological advance in the last five years?
Statistical advances that improve signal to noise in order to reduce false positives are critical to our field. One such approach called “Local score” was developed by Fariello et al (2017) to account for linked SNPs from high density genome scans to yield strong candidates (after Bonferroni correction). This is a powerful approach to detect adaptive genetic variation.
Meek, M. H., & Larson, W. A. (2019). The future is now: amplicon sequencing and sequence capture usher in the conservation genomics era. Molecular ecology resources. 19, 795–803. https://doi.org/10.1111/1755-0998.12998
Hoffmann, A. A., & Rieseberg, L. H. (2008). Revisiting the impact of inversions in evolution: from population genetic markers to drivers of adaptive shifts and speciation?. Annual review of ecology, evolution, and systematics, 39, 21-42. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.ecolsys.39.110707.173532
Lamichhaney, S., Fan, G., Widemo, F., Gunnarsson, U., Thalmann, D. S., Hoeppner, M. P., … & Chen, W. (2016). Structural genomic changes underlie alternative reproductive strategies in the ruff (Philomachus pugnax). Nature Genetics, 48(1), 84. https://doi.org/10.1038/ng.3430
Jones, F. C., Grabherr, M. G., Chan, Y. F., Russell, P., Mauceli, E., Johnson, J., … & Birney, E. (2012). The genomic basis of adaptive evolution in threespine sticklebacks. Nature, 484(7392), 55. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature10944
Wegner, N. C., Snodgrass, O. E., Dewar, H., & Hyde, J. R. (2015). Whole-body endothermy in a mesopelagic fish, the opah, Lampris guttatus. Science, 348(6236), 786-789. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aaa8902
Fariello, M. I., Boitard, S., Mercier, S., Robelin, D., Faraut, T., Arnould, C., … & Gourichon, D. (2017). Accounting for linkage disequilibrium in genome scans for selection without individual genotypes: the local score approach. Molecular ecology, 26(14), 3700-3714. https://doi.org/10.1111/mec.14141