2024 Molecular Ecology Prize goes to Michael Whitlock, for foundational contributions to the study of population genetics in space

The Molecular Ecology Prize Committee has announced the 2024 recipient of the award, which recognizes an outstanding scientist who has made significant contributions to the still-young field of molecular ecology:

The 2024 Molecular Ecology Prize has been awarded to Professor Michael Whitlock, Department of Zoology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. Professor Whitlock is a world authority on the role of spatial population structure in evolutionary biology and population genetics.  He derived basic population genetic results for spatially structured populations, including the effective population size, rate of evolution due to selection, probability of fixation of beneficial and deleterious alleles, mutation load, and inbreeding depression. These results added a ubiquitous, but mainly ignored aspect of real biology to population genetics, i.e., spatial population structure.  He also established the pervasive influence of non-equilibrium processes in genetic spatial structure, demonstrated important limitations of widely used models for statistical genetics inference, derived the first proper statistical treatment of QST, and identified many sources of potential bias in genomic methods for detecting loci underlying local adaptation. This work has had lasting impacts on numerous topics of interest to molecular ecologists, ranging from landscape genomics to conservation genetics to speciation. Whitlock has further to contributed to the field through exceptional service, include writing a leading text on statistical methods, serving as President of the American Society of Naturalists, and establishing a data archiving policy at the major publications in his field, including Molecular Ecology.

Dr. Whitlock joins the previous winners of the Molecular Ecology Prize: Godfrey Hewitt, John Avise, Pierre Taberlet, Harry Smith, Terry Burke, Josephine Pemberton, Deborah Charlesworth, Craig Moritz, Laurent Excoffier, Johanna Schmitt, Fred Allendorf, Louis Bernatchez, Nancy Moran, Robin Waples, Scott Edwards, Victoria Sork, Fuwen Wei, Kerstin Johannessen, and Uma Ramakrishnan.

About Jeremy Yoder

Jeremy B. Yoder is an Associate 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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