Hamley and Gill recognized by ESA for Falkland Islands Research

Jacquelyn Gill, associate professor in the School of Biology and Ecology and the Climate Change Institute, and Kit Hamley, Ph.D. candidate in the Climate Change Institute, are co-authors on a research paper that was recently selected as the winner of the Ecological Society of America’s W.S. Cooper Award for a study of seabirds in the Falkland Islands. Gill and Hamley will be recognized along with principal author Dulcinea Groff, who conducted the research as part of her Ph.D. at UMaine, as well as Gill’s former UMaine undergraduate research assistants Trevor Lessard and Kayla Greenawalt.

The Ecological Society of America (ESA) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization of professional ecologists, and its awards program recognizes ESA members who make outstanding contributions to ecology in new discoveries, teaching, sustainability, diversity and lifelong commitment to the profession.

The Cooper Award honors the authors of an outstanding publication in the field of geobotany, physiographic ecology, plant succession, or the distribution of plants along environmental gradients. William S. Cooper was a pioneer of physiographic ecology and geobotany, with a particular interest in the influence of historical factors on the pattern of contemporary plant communities.

The winning study, entitled “Seabird establishment during regional cooling drove a terrestrial ecosystem shift 5000 years ago,” was published in Science Advances in October 2020.

According to the ESA press release, the researchers presented “a novel millennia-long perspective on the emergence of the distinctive coastal tussac grasslands of the Falkland Islands, following the Cooper tradition of understanding macro-scale vegetation patterns and dynamics related to environmental changes across space and time.” By arguing that seabirds could be underappreciated drivers of ecosystem change on small nutrient-limited islands, the authors sparked “a different way of thinking about the study of ecosystems and their governing factors,” which elevates the legacy of Cooper’s efforts to consider how ecosystems are transformed by interactions among species and abiotic factors, from nutrients to climate.

ESA will present the 2022 awards during a ceremony at the society’s upcoming annual meeting in Montréal, Québec, Aug. 14–19. The UMaine researchers will be recognized alongside their collaborators Moriaki Yasuhara from the University of Hong Kong and Paul Brickle at the South Atlantic Environmental Research Institute.