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Organization for Tropical Studies Announces winners of the 9th Annual Student Paper Award 

This year’s winner is Benton N. Taylor from Columbia University for his paper “Nitrogen-fixing trees inhibit growth of regenerating Costa Rican rainforests” published in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences, a collaboration with his advisor, Duncan N. L. Menge, and with Robin L. Chazdon of the University of Connecticut.   Ben's study focused on the growth and survival rates of nitrogen-fixing and non-fixing trees during forest regeneration, using annual census data gathered by Chazdon since 1987on plots at La Selva, an OTS research station in Costa Rica.  Nitrogen-fixing trees were thought to be advantageous to the growth of neighboring trees due to the increased availability of nitrogen in soils around them. In contrast to expectation, Ben's analysis showed that non-fixing trees with more nitrogen-fixing neighbors grew slower than when they have fewer N-fixing neighbors, demonstrating that these trees actually inhibited rainforest recovery at their study sites.

Two students received Honorary Mention. One is Natalie S. Christian from Indiana University for her paper “Exposure to the leaf litter microbiome of healthy adults protects seedlings from pathogen damage,” published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.  Studying the tropical cacao tree at the Smithsonian Institution’s Barro Colorado Island facility, Natalie demonstrated that exposure to leaf litter from healthy adult cacao trees significantly enhanced pathogen resistance in conspecific seedlings. This effect was attributable to the transmitted endophyte community, which enriched the seedling microbiome with component microbial species that enhanced host pathogen resistance.  The work was co-authored with her advisor, Keith Clay, and two Smithsonian staff scientists. Natalie is an alum of the OTS course Tropical Biology: An Ecological Approach.


The other Honorary Mention goes to Hannah Frank from Stanford University for her paper “Phylogeny, Traits, and Biodiversity of a Neotropical Bat Assemblage: Close Relatives Show Similar Responses to Local Deforestation.” published in the American Naturalist.  Working in the dry season at Las Cruses Biology Station, another OTS facility, she and her coworkers were able to catch over 5000 bats of 42 species over a five year period. Comparing forest reserves, forest fragments, and coffee plantations at a very fine vegetation scale, closely related bat species show similar responses to habitat changes. The paper was co-authored with her mentor, Elizabeth A. Hadley, and Gretchen C. Daily, who nominated her for this award.

The Committee was Kimberly G. Smith, Chair, University of Arkansas; Erin Kuprewicz, University of Connecticut; Elisabeth Arevalo, Providence College; and Luke Browne, the winner of last year’s competition and now at University of California, Los Angeles.  The Committee would like to thank all the students that submitted packets for consideration.  “This year we once again received a great group of nominations” said Smith. 


 

Last Updated ( 04/10/18 )
 
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