Awards & prizes

2016 Michael Bull Prize Winner

We are delighted to announce that Rebecca Stirnemann (Massey University) is the inaugural winner of the Michael Bull prize for best student-led paper published in Austral Ecology. 

The Michael Bull Prize for the best student-led paper published in Austral Ecology is named in honour of Professor Michael Bull. In addition to being a fantastic ecologist, Mike has made an extraordinary contribution to Austral Ecology (both under its current title, and when it was known as the Australian Journal of Ecology). Mike first joined the editorial board of the Australian Journal of Ecology in 1985. He was one of three Receiving Editors from 1988 to 1994, and has been the Managing Editor since 1997. 
Rebecca will be receiving her prize and presenting her work at the ESA conference in Adelaide in November – and you should check out her fantastic paper in Austral Ecology.
This award is open to students whose manuscripts are submitted to Austral Ecology either during their undergraduate, honours or postgraduate studies, or up to one year after their degree was conferred. The student must be a member of the ESA at the time of manuscript submission, and must be the lead author on the paper. Only manuscripts accepted for publication in Austral Ecology will be considered. So, ESA students – send your awesome papers to Austral Ecology!

ESA Michael Bull Prize Winner

Rebecca L. Stirnemann, Murray A. Potter, David Butler and Edward O. Minot

Habitat fragmentation and invasive species are two of the greatest threats to species diversity worldwide. This is particularly relevant for oceanic islands with vulnerable endemics. We examine how habitat fragmentation influences nest predation by Rattus spp. on cup nesting birds in Samoan forests. We determined models for predicting predation rates by Rattus on artificial nests at two scales: (1) the position of the bird’s nest within the landscape (e.g. proximity to mixed crop plantations, distance to forest edge); and (2) the microhabitat in the immediate vicinity of the nest (e.g. nest height, ground cover, slope). Nest cameras showed only one mammal predator, the black rat (Rattus rattus), predating artificial nests. The optimal model predicting nest predation rates by black rats included a landscape variable and a local nest site variable. Predation rates were significantly higher for nests in forest edges near mixed crop plantations than in edges without plantations. In contrast, predation rates did not vary significantly between edge habitat where the matrix did not contain plantations, and interior forest sites (>1 km from the edge). As groundcover reduced, nest predation rates increased. Waxtags containing either coconut or peanut butter were assessed as a second method for determining rat abundance. Rural development in Samoa will increase the proportion of forest edge near plantations. Our results suggest that this will increase the proportion of forest birds that experience nest predation from black rats. Retaining large forest patches free of plantations will reduce nest predation by rats, but it is may not be sufficient for maintaining populations of predator-sensitive bird species on South Pacific islands.