Saturday, May 18, 2024

Winner announced for early career researcher award – The Applied Ecologist

EcologyWinner announced for early career researcher award – The Applied Ecologist

Journal of Applied Ecology is delighted to announce Dominic McAfee as the winner of the 2023 Southwood Prize! The award is given annually to the best article in the journal by an author at the start of their career. This year, Dominic was chosen by the Senior Editors from a strong shortlist of 12 articles. 

Winner: Dominic McAfee

Research: Soundscape enrichment enhances recruitment and habitat building on new oyster reef restorations

About the research

Over the preceding decade, we’ve seen the rise of a cool new field – soundscape ecology, the study of sounds in nature to understand ecological dynamics across spatial and temporal scales. The work of Dominic McAfee and colleagues represents an innovative stride in this domain, elucidating the pivotal role of marine soundscapes in the restoration of oyster reefs.

Dominic McAfee holding a speaker during fieldwork © Dominic McAfee

This research highlights the effectiveness of soundscape enrichment through the use of cost-effective marine speakers (built by the lead author!). Oyster recruitment increased by a factor of up to 18 times in sites where speakers played recordings collected from healthy reefs. The authors also observed a 4.3-fold increase in the construction of three-dimensional habitats in sound-enriched sites.

Summary of the study © McAfee et al, 2022

This is a great example of the type of article Journal of Applied Ecology wants to publish. It combines solid ecological science with creative thinking, and has the potential to reshape the way managers design habitat restoration programmes.

About the winner

Dominic is a marine ecologist at the University of Adelaide in South Australia. His work centers on the recovery of degraded marine ecosystems, and he has a particular passion for restoring lost oyster reefs. Dominic works on the seafloor, in the lab, and with coastal communities to help ensure marine restoration efforts are both a social and ecological success.

Diving during reef restoration in South Australia © Stefan Andrews Ocean Imaging

Underwater, his research focuses on solutions to enhance restoration processes, such as playing the natural sounds of the sea to summon oyster larvae to new restoration sites. On land, he is interested in supporting more community-led restoration efforts to connect people in caring for their coastlines.

Read the winning article “Soundscape enrichment enhances recruitment and habitat building on new oyster reef restorations” in Journal of Applied Ecology. You can also view the whole list of shortlisted articles in our Virtual Issue.

Dominic’s podcast episode discussing his research and what it’s like to be an ecologist can be found on Spotify, on SoundCloud and on Apple Music.

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