What papers should be considered for the 2019 George Mercer Award? Nominations are due Oct. 18!

Nominations for ESA awards are due Oct. 18. Details here.

One of my favorite ESA awards is the The George Mercer Award. It is given annually to an outstanding research paper published in the previous two years (so, 2017 or 2018 for this year’s award) with a lead author age 40 or younger at the time of publication. The age limit is in memory of George Mercer, a promising young ecologist who was killed in WW II.

I love the Mercer Award. It’s great that the ESA recognizes outstanding work being done by up-and-coming ecologists. And thinking about potential nominees is a fun excuse to think about what makes for truly outstanding ecological research today. This would be a great topic for your lab meeting this week: ask everyone suggest a nominee for the Mercer Award and then talk about them.

I have an old post looking back on past Mercer Award winners to look for common threads (more specific than, you know, “being a great paper”). So have a look at that post, and the list of past winners, if you want help forming a “search image”. Broadly speaking, Mercer Award winning papers tend to be those that powerfully combine multiple lines of evidence (often including both theory and data) to really nail what’s going on in some particular system, but in such a way as to also have much broader implications (e.g.). But there are exceptions, plus there’s no rule that says future winners have to be the same sorts of papers as past winners. In particular, it’s notable that only one review/synthesis/meta-analysis paper has ever won as far as I know. One of these years, surely we’ll see the award go to an outstanding working group paper led by a young author, or to a paper from an outstanding large collaboration like NutNet. Maybe this is the year?

So, what papers do you think should be in the conversation for the Mercer award this year? Please add your favorites in the comments. And then follow through and nominate them! I already have. 🙂

5 thoughts on “What papers should be considered for the 2019 George Mercer Award? Nominations are due Oct. 18!

  1. Maybe; I’d need to have a close look at it first before forming an opinion. George Sugihara’s (2012) “convergent cross mapping” approach is very clever (I was very excited about it when it first came out), and seems to have gained some adherents. But it’s performed very poorly in many applications, apparently because it’s not robust to violations of its very strong assumptions.

    • I agree that CCM has limitations (we did a lab-wide project trying to poke holes in it in the Tilman lab when it came out), but I must admit I’m less reserved in my optimism about it, given the issues it addresses and the equal or greater limitations of other tools aimed at similar issues (e.g., Granger causality). In fact, if George can live for another 30 years, I’d give him a decent shot at winning the Nobel in economics for CCM. Uptake in econ has been slower than ecology, but I think there are a huge number of important questions CCM can answer there (also, Granger did win the Nobel). But that’s probably a discussion for another day. I’d love to hear any additional thoughts you or others have about the Ushio et al. paper!

  2. I’ve been enjoying Clements recent work on using trait-based dynamics to predict early warning signals. It’s a nice combination of theory and data and brings me a bit of hope. I previously thought that the tipping point literature hadn’t really produced any convincingly useful generalizations and intuition that would allow us to predict tipping points. The trait based dynamics stuff here, I think, is the closest we’ve come, and I find it very interesting


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