Elton Prize awarded to Dr Rob Salguero-Gomez

Dr Roberto Salguero-Gómez – a NERC Independent Research Fellow at the University of Oxford – has been awarded a British Ecological Society Young Investigator prize. The prize, one of only five awarded each year, recognises the best research papers published in BES journals by early career scientists.

Rob won the Elton Prize for the best paper in the BES's Journal of Animal Ecology in 2016. As the journal’s most downloaded paper of the year, it presented the COMADRE Animal Matrix Database that is a new platform to help ecologists access demographic information across the animal kingdom.

The prize, which includes £250, a year's BES membership plus a year's subscription to the journal, will be presented tonight at the BES’s annual meeting in Ghent.

On receiving his award, Rob said: “I feel extremely honoured and humbled to receive this award. I founded the COMADRE Animal Matrix Database in 2011, when I was a postdoc at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research. It all started with pure curiosity: I wanted to know how much public demographic information there was in the form of population matrix models in the animal kingdom.”

“I soon realised that there is actually quite a bit, but that this information was scattered on the internet and behind pay-walls, thus not allowing the research community to harness its collective power for global ecological and evolutionary studies.”

According to the judges: “This paper fills an important knowledge gap in animal ecology by providing the missing information and the tools to perform demographic analyses both within and between species.”

Fast-forward to 6 years later, the COMADRE consortium, which now includes over 10 nodes, constantly finds and digitises demographic information from the literature and internet, curates it, complements it with new information (e.g. phylogenies), and makes it all open-access. Rob and his team firmly believe in open-access and take an active interest in teaching the new generations about the latest and greatest scientific methods to analyse these data.

“We are not headed to the era of big data in ecology - we are already in it," said Rob. "It is an unprecedented landmark that the BES has recognised our efforts in COMADRE with the Elton Prize, and I am extremely grateful for the support that this means for animal demography and population ecology as a whole.”