Congratulations to Jenny Zambrano for winning the British Ecological Society's Harper Prize, awarded to an early career researcher, for her work as a SESYNC postdoctoral fellow! She was awarded the prize for her paper Neighbourhood defence gene similarity effects on tree performance: a community transcriptomic approach.
"Jenny’s paper is an excellent and novel example of how a community functional phylogenomic approach can be taken to understand demographic performance of co-occuring species. Demographic data on 21 species in a completely censused 25.6 Ha North American forest plot were chosen for the study. Using recent advances in sequencing and informatics the effect of dissimilarity in 27 plant defence genes among neighbours was quantified from RNA extracted from leaf tissue of greenhouse grown seedlings of each species. For 16 of 27 defence genes, individual growth rates were higher when surrounded by dissimilar heterospecific species, whereas for 4 of 27 defence genes survival rates were increased. Overall, the study shows that similarity in defence genes among neighbours can negatively affect demographic performance consistent with Janzen-Connell type dynamics. The Editors were impressed with how this study shows for the first time how a community transcriptomics framework can supplement functional trait approaches and advance our understanding of the drivers of community structure and function."
Read the complete BES announcement.