SFI External Professor André de Roos

SFI External Professor André de Roos and Jasper Croll, both based at the University of Amsterdam, won the 2023 Outstanding Paper in Theoretical Ecology award by the Ecological Society of America (ESA). Their winning paper, “The regulating effects of growth plasticity on the dynamics of structured populations”, published in March last year sheds new light on how the interplay between the environment and individuals traits like growth and reproduction can impact the persistence of consumer populations.

“This is very exciting news as we did not see this award coming at all,” says de Roos. “Since the early 1950s when fisheries studies began, people assumed a fish of a certain age is a certain size with very little variation regarding size-age relationships; however, in more recent scientific developments, there has been a lot of work done on how individuals grow which shows that temporal variation in the size-age relationship has major, unexpected repercussions for the dynamics of populations and communities. One important result we found was that the evolutionary optimum is some kind of intermediate strategy between the two spectrums: growth and body size being dependent on the environment versus growth and body size being genetically predetermined.” 

The award is devoted to recognising novel and unconventional ways of theoretical thinking, or “what we called break-the-mold papers,” says Serguei Saavedra, SFI External Professor and Chair of the Theoretical Ecology Section (TES) of the ESA. ‘Break-the-mold’ papers depart from mainstream research and have the potential to be paradigm shifts in the near future, opening new avenues of work and understanding in theoretical ecology and beyond.

“This paper provides an elegant theoretical perspective to integrate life-history traits, energy budgets, population dynamics, and feasibility analysis. Following a transdisciplinary approach, their work provides constructive and stimulating new ideas to link the response of populations to environmental change,” says Saavedra. 

TES, which created the award in 2010, announces annually at its social event during the ESA meeting. This year, SFI Press is sponsoring the award together with TES. 

Read the paper, “The regulating effects of growth plasticity on the dynamics of structured populations” in The Journal of Theoretical Ecology (March 23, 2022) https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12080-022-00529-x