Carnegie Museum Botanist Wins Ecological Society of America George Mercer Award for Young Scientists

By Carnegie Museum of Natural History

[Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania] — The Ecological Society of America (ESA) named co-authors Mason Heberling, Assistant Curator of Botany at Carnegie Museum of Natural History, and Caitlin McDonough MacKenzie, postdoctoral fellow at University of Maine, recipients of the George Mercer Award that recognizes excellence in recent ecological research by scientists aged 40 years or younger at time of publication. Heberling and McDonough MacKenzie, who share the award with the more senior co-authors Richard Primack of Boston University, Susan Kalisz of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and Jason Fridley of Syracuse University, compared historical observations collected by Henry David Thoreau with new observations to show effects of climate change on spring wildflowers and trees.  The study, entitled “Phenological mismatch with trees reduces wildflower carbon budgets,” appeared in the scientific journal Ecology Letters in February 2019. The study demonstrated that trees are responding more rapidly to climate change than wildflowers, and this is having a negative effect on wildflower energy budgets.

ESA describes the research as “creative and powerful integration of historical records and contemporary experiments covering many species.” ESA goes on to note that Heberling and his colleagues “tell a convincing and important scientific story with notably clear writing and compelling visuals.”

“It is an immense honor to share this prestigious award with Caitlin and co-authors,” said Heberling. “We didn’t even know each other when we were collecting our separate datasets, but with serendipity and word-of-mouth, our projects came together to reveal findings that were exciting, surprising, and alarming at the same time. I am humbled to receive this award that celebrates a rich legacy of previous winners who have greatly influenced and inspired the field of ecology. I still can’t quite believe it.”

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