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Brit Laginhas Wins 2021 ESA George Mercer Award

The Ecological Society of America announced today the winners of its 2021 awards, which recognize outstanding contributions to the field of ecology.

The George Mercer Award, which recognizes an outstanding, recently published, ecological research paper by young scientists was awarded to Brit Laginhas, a first-year student in the Geospatial Analytics Ph.D. program, and her coauthors for their paper “Disentangling the abundance–impact relationship for invasive species,” published in PNAS.

This paper is the first meta-analysis to win the Mercer Award. Meta-analyses have become an important ecological research tool since their introduction into ecology in the early 1990s, and the work by Laginhas and her colleagues identified a novel general pattern that likely could not have been discovered or confirmed except via meta-analysis. Their comprehensive global meta-analysis of 1,258 studies addresses how the impacts of invasive species scale with their abundances. The analysis revealed striking general pattern across trophic levels: invasive species’ impacts on lower trophic levels increase steeply but nonlinearly with their abundances, so that per-capita impact declines with increasing invader abundance, while invasive species’ impacts within their own trophic level increase less steeply and linearly with their abundances. Their findings are valuable for managers, who need to decide whether it is worthwhile to attempt eradication of undesirable invasive species.

“This year’s award recipients have shown remarkable leadership and creativity,” said Kathleen Weathers, ESA President. “On behalf of the Ecological Society of America, I congratulate the award winners and thank them for their significant contributions to building both ecological knowledge and the community of ecologists.”

ESA will present the 2021 awards during a ceremony at the Society’s upcoming Virtual Annual Meeting, which will take place from Monday, August 2, to Sunday, August 6, 2021. Learn more about ESA awards.