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ESA announces the recipients of the 2016 Murray F. Buell and E. Lucy Braun Student Awards

Awards recognize students for outstanding research presented at the 2016 Annual Meeting

Ecological Society of America

The Ecological Society of America recognizes Michael J.M. McTavish and Julienne E. NeSmith for outstanding student research presentations at the 101st Annual Meeting of the Society in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in August 2016. ESA will present the awards during the 2017 Annual Meeting in Portland, Oregon. The awards ceremony will take place on Monday, August 7, at 8 AM in the Oregon Ballroom at the Oregon Convention Center.

Murray F. Buell had a long and distinguished record of service and accomplishment in the Ecological Society of America. Among other things, he ascribed great importance to the participation of students in meetings and to excellence in the presentation of papers. To honor his selfless dedication to the younger generation of ecologists, the Murray F. Buell Award for Excellence in Ecology is given to a student for the outstanding oral paper presented at the ESA Annual Meeting.

Lucy Braun, an eminent plant ecologist and one of the charter members of the Society, studied and mapped the deciduous forest regions of eastern North America and described them in her classic book, The Deciduous Forests of Eastern North America. To honor her, the E. Lucy Braun Award for Excellence in Ecology is given to a student for the outstanding poster presentation at the ESA Annual Meeting. Papers and posters are judged on the significance of ideas, creativity, quality of methodology, validity of conclusions drawn from results, and clarity of presentation.

Award panel members honored Michael J.M. McTavish with the Buell Award for his presentation "Selective granivory of exotic earthworms within commercial grass seed mixes: Implications for seeding-based restoration in invaded ecosystems." McTavish is a doctoral candidate working with Professor Stephen D. Murphy in the School of Environment, Resources & Sustainability at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada.

The invasion of earthworms into previously earthworm-free soils is instigating sweeping change in the ecosystems of eastern North America. This has brought interest in the earthworms' appetite for seeds and how they may impact ecological restoration projects that add seeds to soil. McTavish investigated the characteristics of commercial grass seeds favored by the exotic earthworm Lumbricus terrestris. He observed how earthworm activity affected the biomass of different types of grass in outdoor, enclosed experiments called mesocosms, which simulate natural environments under controlled conditions. He found that earthworms preferred smaller seeds that had been coated to increase water uptake, resulting in decreased grass biomass in mesocosms planted with coated seeds. The judges felt that McTavish showed excellence in presenting and answering his experimental questions, particularly praising his distribution of text and pictures. His experimental results formed a comprehensive and important story.

Panel members honored Julienne E. NeSmith with the Braun Award for her poster "Interactive effects of soil moisture and plant invasion on pine tree survival." NeSmith is a graduate student working with Associate Professor of Agronomy S. Luke Flory in the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

NeSmith investigated the separate and combined effects of drought and exotic grass invasion on the survival of native loblolly (Pinus tied) and slash (Pinus elliottii) pine in central Florida by manipulating environmental conditions in experimental garden plots. Cogongrass (Imperata cylindrica) is an aggressively invasive, highly flammable perennial grass which arrived in the southeastern United States in the early twentieth century. Drought and cogongrass invasion each separately decreased survival of both pine species, but invasion only exacerbated the effects of drought on the survival of loblolly pine. The presence of cogongrass offset the effects of drought on slash pine survival in the experimental garden plots. NeSmith attributed the greater survival of slash pine under drought conditions to higher soil moisture and humidity in invaded plots than non-invaded plots. Judges recognized NeSmith's ability to explain the experimental details and the management implications of her results and enjoyed her enthusiasm for the project.


2017 Annual Meeting in Portland, Oregon

Environmental scientists from 50 U.S. states, U. S. territories, and countries around the world will converge on Portland, Oregon this August for the 102nd Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America. Five thousand attendees are expected to gather for nearly four thousand scientific presentations on breaking research and new ecological concepts at the Oregon Convention Center on August 6th through 11th, 2017.

ESA invites reporters and institutional public information officers to attend the Annual Meeting for free. To apply, please contact ESA Communications Officer Liza Lester directly at


The Ecological Society of America, founded in 1915, is the world's largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge, committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 10,000 member Society publishes five journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society's Annual Meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in ecological science. Visit the ESA website at

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