We are proud to celebrate our fantastic medal and award winners for 2023
Published on 3rd April 2023
Every year, the Linnean Society of London awards a number of medals and awards to celebrate excellence in science, from zoology to botany, mycology and beyond. Particular focus is also made on evolution, microscopy and scientific illustration, whilst celebrating all those paving the way in the study and appreciation of the natural world.
This year we recognise nine outstanding individuals whose contributions to our understanding and appreciation of nature comes from a variety of backgrounds, including an activist in Deptford in South London, a plant conservationist in Teesdale and a New Zealand-based botanical artist. Our winners are both young and established scientists working on plant ecology, evolution, the effects of climate change and the world’s oldest known bread material.
‘The Linnean Society of London has celebrated excellence in science since it awarded the first Linnean Medals to Joseph Hooker and Richard Owen in 1888. Since then, the Society’s awards have grown, and encompass achievement in areas both inside and outside of academia—achievements that have furthered our knowledge of the natural world.
This year we had many nominees, which gives a heartening insight into the incredible work being done in the field, in the lab and with the public all over the world. Our 2023 winners represent innovative thinking, inspiring breakthroughs and just an all-round vibrant passion for understanding nature, and protecting it. We offer our warmest congratulations to all of them.’
Linnean Medal (for services to science)
Professor Sandra Díaz
‘Natural history weaves together natural science, social science, arts and lots of passion. In the face of the challenges of today, natural history is more relevant than ever, to the point of becoming indispensable. I feel immensely honoured by this award, and very humbled, looking at the list of previous awardees, which includes several of my most admired scientists.’
Professor Sandra Díaz is a globally renowned plant ecologist, whose work on functional traits has changed the way we look at how plants partition resources and adapt to their environments. She was one of the first to show that function and benefits of an ecosystem are better predicted by the combination of organisms and their specific traits, known as ‘functional trait diversity’. In 2019, Díaz was named by Nature as one of the ‘ten people who mattered in science’.
Darwin-Wallace Medal (for major advances in evolutionary biology)
Professor Ziheng Yang FRS
‘I am extremely honoured to receive the Darwin-Wallace Medal from the Linnean Society of London. It is humbling to receive such a great compliment from this prestigious society.’
Professor Ziheng Yang FRS has made unparalleled contributions to evolutionary biology, with his original insights and methods underpinning almost all research that uses genetic information to understand species divergence, adaptation and gene flow. Yang has invented a multitude of novel statistical models and methods for comparative analyses of sequence data that are now the foundation of the standard toolkit in molecular evolutionary biology.
Bicentenary Medal (in recognition of the work of a biologist under 40)
Dr Tanisha Williams
‘I am overwhelmed with gratitude to have been selected to receive the Bicentenary Medal from the Linnean Society of London. I am accepting this award with great honour and continuing to task myself with advocating for and advancing great science and service.’
Dr Tanisha Williams's doctoral work studied the response of South African Pelargonium species to climate change, including a substantial portion doing fieldwork abroad and generating an impressive long-term phenological dataset from a century's worth of herbarium collections. She has since won several awards for her work in science and outreach, having expanded plant-related research opportunities for students through her expertise in climate change biology and population genomics, as well as making it more inclusive for those who are otherwise marginalised in its study.
Trail-Crisp Award (for an outstanding contribution to biological microscopy)
Dr Lara González Carretero
‘I am deeply honoured to receive the prestigious Trail-Crisp Award from the Linnean Society of London. I am incredibly happy and grateful for this recognition of my work.’
Dr Lara González Carretero’s work on charred cereal foods for her 2020 PhD provided a breakthrough for archaeobotany. The carbonised remains of food have proved stubbornly resistant to identification, but González Carretero was able to establish clear and replicable criteria to identify cereal species under the microscope. Her best-known work concerns bread material from Jordan that represents the world’s oldest known to date.
Irene Manton Prize (for the best doctoral thesis in botany, in a UK university)
Dr Brogan Harris
‘It is an honour to receive the Irene Manton Prize and to be recognised for contributions to plant sciences. The work would not have been possible without the enthusiasm and effort of my fantastic supervisors and collaborators.’
Brogan Harris’s research on the hotly debated topic of the evolution of stomata concluded that bryophytes form a monophyletic group, rather than a paraphyletic grade, resolving a significant controversy. His research also suggests that the first embryophytes possessed stomata that were more sophisticated than previously thought. Harris’s research has changed the way we think about early land plant evolution.
John C. Marsden Medal (for the best doctoral thesis in biology, in a UK university)
Dr Tomos Potter
‘I am delighted, honoured and humbled to receive the John C. Marsden Medal. I am very grateful to my thesis supervisors Tim Coulson and Ron Bassar for their guidance, and also to David Reznick, Joe Travis, and Anja Felmy for their invaluable support. Thanks too to the guppies, for being such fascinating little creatures!’
Dr Tomos Potter’s PhD involved complex statistical analyses of observational data, and theoretical modelling. Studying the freshwater stream ecosystem of Northern Trinidad, his focus was on guppies. This work revealed how eco-evolutionary feedback could result in environmental impacts on phenotypic trait expression and cryptic evolution, and involved the analysis of one of the largest pedigrees ever constructed for a free-living population of fish; it is destined to become a classic.
H. H. Bloomer Award (awarded to an amateur naturalist for their contribution to biology)
Dr Margaret E. Bradshaw MBE
‘To be told I had been awarded this Medal came as a complete surprise. I was surprised that my efforts to encourage people to conserve the Special Flora of Teesdale [in Northern England] had been noticed by a Fellow of the Linnean Society. I look forward to receiving it. I thank the Linnean Society for bestowing this honour upon me.’
Dr Margaret E. Bradshaw MBE is a nationally renowned amateur botanist, known for her work in plant conservation. Aged 96, she has devoted much of her life to the study and conservation of the rare flora of Upper Teesdale (an SSSI in Country Durham, England). The data she has collected is invaluable and shows there has been a decline in important rare species in the locality since she began in the 1970s.
Jill Smythies Award (for outstanding diagnostic illustrations in botanical art)
‘I am overwhelmed, humbled, excited and absolutely delighted to receive the Jill Smythies Award. It means so much to me, but reflects the knowledge, encouragement and inspiration from the various people I have been lucky to work with over the years, so is a team effort.’
Sue Wickison is an extremely accomplished botanical artist with field experience in many areas, namely the Solomon Islands, where she collected and recorded orchids. She has also worked on endangered species, depicting their life cycles, and has most recently illustrated Kew’s The Plants of the Qur’an: History and Culture by Dr Shahina Ghazanfar, with an accompanying exhibition running until Sunday 17 September at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art.
John Spedan Lewis Emerging Leader Award for the UK Natural Environment (for initiatives that have had a notable positive impact for the UK natural environment)
Kwesia (City Girl in Nature)
‘I am delighted to receive the John Spedan Lewis Emerging Leader Award for my work in engaging communities with the natural environment. Too often, members of my community feel excluded and marginalised from the green spaces around them, yet it is often these very same places that bring joy and healing to our lives. This award gives me the encouragement and motivation to keep enabling these opportunities, and to keep telling stories of nature empowerment for all.’
Growing up in inner-city London, Kwesia underwent many challenges, including homelessness. A British Exploring Society expedition to the Peruvian Amazon allowed her to encounter nature in a way that presented positive opportunities, forming bonds with fellow nature enthusiasts. As a result, Kwesia developed ‘City Girl in Nature’, and became a ‘nature connection activist’, establishing a YouTube channel, website and social media presence to help others from her community connect with the natural world.
Winners will be presented with their medals and awards at the Society's AGM on 24 May.
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