2021 Harry Smith Prize awarded to Yann Dorant, for considering CNVs in the lobster

Female (top) and male American lobsters, drawn by F.H. Herrick (Flickr: Biodiversity Heritage Library)

The Harry Smith Prize, which recognizes the best paper published in Molecular Ecology by an early career scholar within a given year, has been awarded to Yann Dorant at the Université Laval in Québec. Dorant led the 2020 paper “Copy number variants outperform SNPs to reveal genotype-environment association in a marine species,” an examination of local adaptation to climate in the American lobster, Homarus americanus. As the award committee, Alison Nazreno and Katrina West, noted in their decision letter,

Although CNVs are a major component of genotypic and phenotypic variation in genomes, their adaptive role has been largely neglected in wild populations. In this context, Dorant’s approach presents a new, cost-effective approach for reduced- representation sequencing data sets, which enables the joint analysis of sequence and structural variation. The work by Dorant and colleagues highlights the extent to which CNVs are overlooked in population genomics studies, thus underscoring the missed opportunities to reveal subtle population genetic structures and identify loci associated with local adaptation.

Dorant’s winning article is available online at the Molecular Ecology website. The award committee also recognized two graduate students at the University of British Columbia, Kaichi Huang and Tom R. Booker as second and third runners’ up, respectively. Huang and her coauthors demonstrated the role of chromosomal inversions in the adaptive divergence of a sunflower ecotype, and Booker et al. used simulations and empirical data to show that low-recombination genome regions may have unusually long-tailed distributions of FST, complicating interpretation of genome scans for locally adapted loci.

About Jeremy Yoder

Jeremy B. Yoder is an Assistant Professor of Biology at California State University Northridge, studying the evolution and coevolution of interacting species, especially mutualists. He is a collaborator with the Joshua Tree Genome Project and the Queer in STEM study of LGBTQ experiences in scientific careers. He has written for the website of Scientific American, the LA Review of Books, the Chronicle of Higher Education, The Awl, and Slate.
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