UCT ecologist wins British Ecological Society prize

29 March 2017

UCT ecologist and MSc student Gabriella Leighton has won a British Ecological Society (BES) Young Investigator prize, which recognises the best research papers published in BES journals by early career scientists.

Leighton won the Robert May Prize for the best paper in the BES journal Methods in Ecology & Evolution for her paper “Just Google it: assessing the use of Google Images to describe geographical variation in visible traits of organisms”.

The prize is awarded for an important contribution in converting one aspect of field ecology to a desktop science, and Leighton’s paper shows how Google can help make ecology cheaper, faster and safer in the future.

She analysed online image data across a range of species, from black bears in western North America to Black Sparrowhawks in South Africa, comparing data on their colour collected by fieldworkers with data from Google images, and found that the online images are a very reliable source of data.

Caption: Black Sparrowhawk (black morph) in flight. Photo Wikimedia Commons.

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