IRPE Prize

The IRPE Prize (International Recognition of Professional Excellence) honors a young ecologist (not older than 40 years) who has published uniquely independent, original and/or challenging research representing an important scientific breakthrough, and/or who must work under particularly difficult conditions. The IRPE Prize carries an endowment of Euro 3000. Call for Nominations.


IRPE laurates are elected by a jury composed of ECI Members.


IRPE Laureates and Their Major Scientific Achievements


Mary O’Connor (University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada). IRPE Prize winner 2016 in marine ecology.
Quotation of the Jury (Chairman: Christine Maggs, Bournemouth, UK) Dr. Mary O'Connor obtained her PhD on the ecological effects of climate change and ocean temperature in 2008. Following a postdoc at the world-leading National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis at Santa Barbara, she took up a permanent academic position at the University of British Columbia in 2011. An inspiring teacher, she emphasizes participation in research and uses innovative teaching methods including active learning and flipped classrooms. The signature of her research is a collaborative approach to answering complex questions through creative use of tractable systems, mostly aquatic but also terrestrial. She researches ecosystem effects of climate change using fundamentals such as body size, metabolic scaling and source-sink concepts. The quality and timeliness of her research are indicated by outstanding publications in leading high-profile journals and have led to highly successful grants from several prestigious funders. She is passionate about advancing open science (sharing of data, code and research) to benefit the scientific process, resulting in numerous important collaborations with leading climate change biologists. Dr. O'Connor's growing reputation as a communicator, as well as an outstanding scientist, is indicated by her being an Invited Speaker at important conferences. She is a truly deserving recipient of the International Recognition of Professional Excellence Prize.


Mariana Meerhof (University of the Republic, Uruguay, Montevideo, Uruguay). IRPE Prize winner 2015 in freshwater ecology.
Quotation of the Jury (Chairman: Mary Power, Berkeley, CA, USA) Dr. Meerhoff’s research on the roles of submerged versus floating aquatic plants in mediating food web and ecosystem interactions in sub-tropical Uruguayan and temperate Danish lakes is both holistic and mechanistic, and reveals some of the complications we may expect in shallow lakes under warming. The jury applauds her approach, which blends direct study of natural history (e.g. feeding impacts of fish, habitat selection by invertebrates) with nested experimentation and latitudinal comparisons. Her comparative studies have significantly extended our understanding of how warming could affect lake sensitivity to eutrophication, in particular the important question of whether or not submerged plants can maintain lake clarity, often regarded as an important ecosystem ‘service’, against the effects of nutrient loading. She has shown that, in subtropical lakes, this outcome depends on top down (invertebrate-feeding fish, their density, activity, and omnivory) as well as bottom up (phosphorus release under warming) factors. Her research accomplishments and leadership in carrying out, stimulating, and facilitating limnological research in South America are of the highest calibre, as are her leadership in organizing scientific meetings and in communicating her science to governments and freshwater managers, and her teaching and service on editorial boards.


Lian Pin Koh (University of Adelaide, Australia). IRPE Prize winner 2014 in terrestrial ecology.
Quotation of the Jury (Chairman: Harold Mooney, Stanford, CA, USA) Lian Pin Koh is eminently qualified to receive the International Recognition of Professional Excellence Prize based on his substantial body of critical studies in conservation biology, and his remarkable ability to apply fieldwork, modelling, data synthesis, and technological innovation to both ecological and socioeconomic issues related to land-use change and biodiversity conservation. His highly timely work centres on tropical forests, with exhaustive studies revealing the substantial environmental consequences of converting pristine, or even logged forest to palm-oil plantation. He has also pointed to areas where palm plantations could be grown without carbon losses or diminished food production, and demonstrated ways in which retained forest fragments can benefit palm oil production through harbouring of insectivorous birds that reduce insect pests. He also has substantial talents in translating his scientific work into forms that can be easily understood and used by conservation practitioners, as well as students. Dr Koh is already widely recognised by his peers for his innovative and intellectually rigorous work and is a worthy recipient of the IRPE Prize.


Anne K. Salomon (School of Ressource and Environmental Management, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, Canada V5A 156), IRPE Prize winner 2013 in marine ecology.

Quotation of the Jury (Chairman, Tom Fenchel, Helsingør, Denmark):

Anne K. Salomon has studied species interactions in coastal biota including invertebrates, fishes, and macroalgae along the West coast of North America. She has in particular investigated how trophic cascades and recruitment can lead to different stable or quasi-stable equilibria in community composition. This included theoretical modeling as well as experimental studies. Her work is guided by interest in marine conservation and — both in a historical and in a contemporary perspective — the effects of human exploitation of coastal organisms. Currently she is studying the effect on epifauna communities brought about by the return of sea otters along the West Coast. These studies require collaboration with native groups and other stakeholders, with the goal of balancing conservation and resource use. The Jury emphasize the broad approach in her work and her ability to combine concern for conservation with good science. Her work is of outstanding quality and she is an extraordinarily talented and promising young marine biologist.


Sujay S. Kaushal (Department of Geology and Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center, University of Maryland, USA), IRPE Prize winner 2012 in limnetic ecology.

Quotation of the Jury (Chairman: Brian Moss, Liverpool, UK):

Sujay Kaushal has produced work of an important and distinctive character and has established himself in the field of freshwater biogeochemistry as it applies over landscapes and particularly urban areas. His interests span groundwater hydrology, watershed and wetland hydrology, and the physical, chemical, and biological processes within such water bodies. His work on the pollution of urban rivers with chloride, from the salting of icy roads in winter, published in 2005, established a serious problem that had barely been previously recognized. Since then he has made significant contributions to the understanding of urban nitrogen pollution in the northeastern USA. Sujay Kaushal is adept as a communicator across a range of the physical, natural, and social sciences and is well fitted to emerge as a leader in the task of defining important environmental problems and facilitating their solutions.


Jérôme Chave (Laboratoire Evolution et Diversité Biologique (EDB), Toulouse, France), IRPE Prize winner 2011 in terrestrial ecology.

Quotation of the Jury (Chairman: Michel Loreau, Montreal, QC, Canada):

Jérôme Chave is a bright young ecologist with a special interest in the diversity and functioning of tropical forests. His training in physics gave him strong quantitative and mathematical skills and a focus on theory development, yet his work is strongly anchored in empirical data, and he has laid bridges between competing theories that were often deemed irreconcilable. Jérôme Chave demonstrates a rare blend of creativity, mathematical rigour and hard fieldwork — a powerful combination that shows where the future of ecology resides. These qualities make him a highly worthy recipient of the 2011 IRPE Prize in Terrestrial Ecology.


Francesca Malfatti (University of California at San Diego, USA), IRPE Prize winner 2010 in marine ecology.

Quotation of the Jury (Chairman: Victor Smetacek, Bremerhaven, Germany):

Francesca Malfatti has made innovative and important contributions to the emerging field of microscale biogeochemistry of the surface ocean. As a beginning graduate student Francesca became convinced that to understand how microbes regulate the global ocean carbon cycle we must know their activities and interactions at nanometer to micrometer scales. Painstakingly applying Atomic Force Microscopy to marine pelagic systems she discovered novel and abundant associations of bacteria with other bacteria and with Synechococcus and Prochlorococcus as well as microbial networks that had gone undetected despite decades of research in marine microbiology. These findings should significantly advance our understanding of the ecophysiology, adaptive biology and biogeochemical function of pelagic marine microbes. The jury found her most worthy of the IRPE Prize in marine ecology 2010.


Campbell O. Webb (Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA, USA), IRPE Prize winner 2008 in terrestrial ecology.

Quotation of the Jury (Chairman: Robert D. Holt, Gainesville, FL, USA):

Dr. Campbell Webb has been instrumental in developing a fresh approach to community organization – community phylogenetics – which uses the tools of phylogenetic systematics to add a historical dimension to issues of community structure and assembly. His innovative empirical studies in plant communities have helped lead ecologists to reconsider the role of niche of differentiation in both mature plant communities, and in communities experiencing invasion. He has contributed to the emergence of community phylogenetics both through both conceptual syntheses and the development of software tools that help community ecologists apply phylogenetic perspectives to their datasets. At the same time, he is deeply devoted to understanding and conserving tropical forests, and he has conducted much of his research while based in Borneo, contributing there to human capital development in local communities and to conservation. For all these reasons, the jury awards Cam Webb the 2008 IRPE Prize in Terrestrial Ecology.


Marcel M. M. Kuypers (Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Bremen, Germany), IRPE Prize winner 2007 in marine ecology.

Quotation of the Jury (Chairman: Bo B. Jørgensen, Bremen, Germany):

Marcel M. M. Kuypers is a marine organic chemist who during his short career has made major breakthroughs in environmental science – first on the analysis of large-scale ocean anoxia in the geological past and second on the modern oxygen minimum zones and their function as a major sink for nitrogen in the ocean. Marcel Kuypers applies diagnostic membrane lipids of prokaryotic organisms as molecular signals for microbial communities and their environment. He combines such information with process studies using isotope tracers and with DNA/RNA-based probes and sequence analyses in a unique manner. His recent work on anammox has changed the way we understand the nitrogen balance in the ocean and thereby also the regulation of ocean productivity. Marcel Kuypers is now the head of a dynamic, independent research group of the Max Planck Society and continues to do internationally outstanding research in aquatic biogeo-chemistry and microbial ecology.


M. Jake Vander Zanden (Center for Limnology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin, USA), IRPE Prize winner 2006 in limnetic ecology.

Quotation of the Jury (Chairman: N. G. Hairston Jr., Ithaca, NY, USA):

Jake Vander Zanden, seven years after receiving his doctorate, is already a major contributor to substantive ideas about the structure and functioning of lake ecosystems. Using stable isotope analyses, his research has provided significant new insights to the structure of limnetic food webs, the substantial role that benthic pathways play in energy transfer within lakes, and the -impacts of introduced species on these dynamics. Jake Vander Zanden has been remarkably successful in joining basic and applied ecology, using his studies in each sphere to inform his understanding in the other, and he is an active advisor to various governmental and private management organizations with missions to conserve and restore aquatic ecosystems.


Andrew Hector (Institute of Environmental Sciences, University of Zürich, Switzerland), IRPE Prize winner 2005 in terrestrial ecology.

Quotation of the Jury (Chairman: Michel Loreau, Paris, France):

Andrew Hector is one of the most talented experimental ecologists of his generation. His publication record in top-quality journals is outstanding for his age. He is recognised throughout the world as an expert in the new biodiversity and ecosystem functioning area that has emerged during the last decade. He has played an important role in the design, analysis and propagation of large-scale experiments that test the effects of biodiversity changes on ecosystem processes in terrestrial systems, and he continues to do so through his responsibilities in DIVERSITAS, the international programme of biodiversity science. Thanks to his scientific understanding, open-mindedness, and honesty, he was also one of the persons who contributed to resolve the controversy over the interpretation of biodiversity experiments, and thereby to provide the bases for the continued development of this scientific area. These achievements make him a worthy recipient of the 2005 IRPE Prize in Terrestrial Ecology.


Markus G. Weinbauer (Laboratoire d'Océanographie de Villefranche-sur-Mer, France), IRPE Prize winner 2004 in marine ecology.

Quotation of the Jury (Chairmann: Victor Smetacek, Bremerhaven, Germany):

Dr. Markus G. Weinbauer has made major contributions towards elucidating the role of viruses in microbial food webs and their effect on prokaryotic diversity. His work has provided new insights into the role of viruses as pathogens of prokaryotes in oxic and anoxic systems, the relationship between viral lysis and dormant viral infection in surface, deep and anoxic waters, the role of repair of ultraviolet radiation-induced DNA damage in the sustenance of high viral activity, and the relative effect of viral lysis and protist grazing of prokaryotes in food web processes in marine and freshwater systems. Markus has worked in Europe and the USA and is actively engaged in training students and young scientists.


David M. Post (Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University, New Haven, CT, 06520 USA), IRPE Prize Winner 2003 in limnetic ecology

Quotation of the Jury (Chairman: Colin Reynolds, Ambleside,UK):

David Post has quickly established a reputation for interesting and innovative research in the variability inherent in food-web structure, especially that which is attributable to the ontogenies and variable demographies of the main components. Well-versed in trophic cascades, the dynamics of fish populations and their roles in nutrient cycling, David has already registered an outstanding contribution to the development of limnetic ecology. His recognition that food-chain length is related primarily to the size of the supportive ecosystem, rather than to the efficiency of energy transfer, as hitherto supposed, has confirmed him as one of the brightest young limnetic ecologists. Members of the Jury consider him especially worthy of the IRPE Laureate and the encouragement for further studies that it brings.


Ruben Sommaruga (Institute of Zoology and Limnology, University of Innsbruck, Technikerstr. 25, 6020 Innsbruck), IRPE Prize winner 2000 in limnetic ecology

Quotation of the Jury (Chairman: Wolfgang Wieser, Innsbruck, Austria):

Ruben Sommaruga, a native of Uruguay, received his Ph.D. at the University of Innsbruck, Austria, where he is now an Associate Professor. He is known for his outstanding scientific contributions to two fields, microbial ecology of hypertrophic lakes, and UV-photobiology. He has proposed a general theory about the roles of Microcystis aeruginosa and Planktothrix agardhii in shaping the structure of the microbial food web and the ecological importance of filamentous grazing-resistant bacteria in hypertrophic lakes. Among his most influential achievements in the second field are the findings that ultraviolet-A (UVA) radiation is as effective in reducing bacterial activity as UVB, that UV radiation has the potential of affecting carbon flow between protists and bacteria, and that intracellular UV-absorbing compounds, called mycosporine-like amino acids, are present not only in marine organisms but also in inhabitants of alpine lakes. Sommaruga has published extensively on plankton ecology, water chemistry, and UV-physics. He is still conducting and supervising projects in Uruguay, particularly with respect to the effects of UV radiation in coastal lagoons and practical problems of eutrophication.


Kevin J. Gaston (Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S10 2NT, United Kingdom), IRPE Prize winner 1999 in terrestrial ecology

Quotation of the Jury (Chairman: F.A. Bazzaz, Cambridge, Massachusetts):

Dr. Kevin J. Gaston has played a major role in the development of macroecology and biodiversity. He established the existence of several major macroecological patterns in insect assemblages. His thesis (which appeared as a series of papers in Nature, Journal of Animal Ecology, American Naturalist and Oikos) clearly demonstrated the need for a macroecological viewpoint. Since then Dr. Gaston has sought to determine the generality of a wide diversity of patterns in macroecology, the fundamental structure of these patterns, the mechanisms which generate them, and their wider implications. Features of these studies have been the development of appropriate statistical tools, the use of null models, and a drive to distinguish real ecological patterns from artefacts and to establish the fundamental mechanisms which cause the real patterns. A number of macroecological hypotheses have been tested for the first time, and others have been subject to more detailed scrutiny than had previously been the case. He has challenged our thinking about the form of macroecological patterns (e.g. measurement of population variability) and their determinants (e.g. abundance-occupancy relationships). This has resulted in stimulating debates



Philip Boyd (NIWA Centre for Chemical and Physical Oceanography, Department of Chemistry, University of Otago, Dunedin 9001, New Zealand), IRPE Prize winner 1998 in marine ecology.

Quotation of the Jury (Chairman: B.-O. Jansson, Stockholm, Sweden):

Dr. Philip Boyd is an internationally acknowledged authority in the fields of phytoplankton community dynamics and oceanic productivity. His thesis 'The flow of carbon in marine microbial ecosystems' provided him with a broad base for launching his scientific career. From postdoctoral positions in the UK and Canada and from his present position in New Zealand he has participated in and contributed significantly to the international Joint Global Ocean Flux Study. His work on the relationship between sinking flux and pelagic community composition is truly interdisiplinary as it links pelagic ecology with marine geochemisty. Throughout his career he has been involved in large-scale field measurements of the open ocean that have applied methods and techniques ranging from molecular biology to ocean physics. He has collaborated with leading scientists and with great success amalgamated complex data sets and modelled major processes from photosynthesis to sinking flux. Currently Boyd has taken up the challenge of organising and leading the first iron fertilisation experiment to test the iron hypothesis in the Southern Ocean. Since this is the first joint South African - New Zealand scientific undertaking its significance for ocean ecology is complemented by its political dimension. Indeed a heavy burden to be carried by a young scientist!


Jef Huisman (Aquatic Microbiology, Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands), IRPE Prize winner 1997 in limnetic ecology.

Quotation of the Jury (Chairman: Winfried Lampert, Plön, Germany):

Jef Huisman has made significant contributions to resource competition theory. Through a unique blend of theory and elegant experiments, he has included light as a resource into the framework of Tilman's mechanistic competition models. Light is a unique resource as it cannot be intermixed like nutrients. Models of light-limited growth and competition, therefore, require a vertical light gradient and a 'critical light intensity' for different species. Jef Huisman has developed the existing theory further and has discovered that not only the ratio of nutrients and light determines the outcome of competition, but also the absolute supply. This outstanding work will have a strong influence on general ecological theory.


Susan Harrison (Division of Environmental Studies, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA), IRPE Prize winner 1996 in terrestrial ecology.

Quotation of the Jury (Chairman: Ilkka Hanski, Helsinki, Finland):

Susan Harrison has made distinguished contributions to population ecology and conservation biology. Her Ph.D. research on the Edith's checkerspot butterfly has had a major impact on the way ecologists think about spatially structured populations. Her more recent empirical research has tested intriguing theoretical predictions about the spatial dynamics of animal and plant populations. Susan Harrison has been exceptionally influential in clarifying and interpreting the implications of population biological research to conservation.


Stephen J. Hawkins (The Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, The Laboratory, Citadel Hill, Plymouth, Devon, UK), IRPE Prize winner 1995 in marine ecology.

Quotation of the Jury (Chairman: Ernest Naylor, Menai Bridge, UK):

At the start of his research career Stephen Hawkins resisted pressures to work on topics for which funding was known to be available, preferring to develop his own ideas and to be judged on those. It was a brave stance when trying to formulate a Ph.D. programme in a harsh financial climate, but he was successful and began imaginative field experiments on rocky shore communities to test his ideas on species/area concepts and on the temporal basis of mosaic distributions. He followed these with detailed studies of intertidal gastropods as models for ideas on niche theory and competition. The outcome of his work has been to generate important new insights into quantitative sampling techniques and environmental impact assessments of rocky shore communities.


Nikolai V. Aladin (Zoological Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg 199034, Russia), IRPE Prize winner 1993 in terrestrial ecology.

Quotation of the Jury (Chairman: Harold A. Mooney, Stanford, CA, USA):

Dr. Nikolai V. Aladin is one of Russia's most eminent young ecologists. He has researched environments in the former Soviet Union, particularly in Kazakhstan where he and a small team have focussed upon the area of the Aral Sea. Dr. Aladin's studies were performed during a period of change, both in the patterns of organismic assemblages and in the political structure of his country. These studies were undertaken in his own time and at his own expense. It is only over the past few years that his studies have been officially supported and their value recognized.


Richard K. Grosberg (Center for Population Biology, Division of Biological Sciences, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA), IRPE Prize winner 1992 in marine ecology.

Quotation of the Jury (Chairman: John Costlow, Beaufort, NC, USA):

Richard K. Grosberg has not only published extensively on fundamental issues relating to marine ecology, but has also demonstrated his understanding of marine ecology through superb teaching of invertebrate zoology to undergraduate and graduate students. He is acknowledged as a leader in adapting molecular techniques for the study of marine larvae and in developing information on extraordinarily detailed mapping studies of the genetic structure of adult populations of marine organisms.


Karel Simek (Hydrobiological Institute, Czech Academy of Sciences, 370 05 Ceské Budejovice, Czech Republic), IRPE Prize winner 1991 in limnetic ecology.

Quotation of the Jury (Chairman: Jürgen Overbeck, Plön, Germany):

Dr. Karel Simek belongs to the generation of young limnologists in Eastern Europe who - despite lack of international information exchange - published, under difficult conditions, excellent contributions to the field of Aquatic Microbiology. He enjoys a high international reputation. Under the present, improved conditions Simek is likely to proceed even more successfully to new professional horizons.


Colleen Cavanaugh (The Biological Laboratories, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA), IRPE Prize winner 1986 in marine ecology.

Quotation of the Jury (Chairman: John Gray, Oslo, Norway):

The Jury found the research of Dr. C. Cavanaugh on chemosynthesis - initially concerning hot-vent fauna but extended to other sulphide-rich habitats - to be highly original and to represent a major scientific breakthrough. Her hypothesis, formulated whilst a beginning graduate student, met severe opposition from established scientists with opposing views, but nevertheless proved to be correct. The Jury acknowledge Dr. Cavanaugh's brilliant and independent research in understanding chemosynthetic energetic pathways.