The Trail-Crisp Award

In recognition of an outstanding contribution to microscopy, with preference given to early and mid-career researchers.

Established in 1966, from the amalgamation of The Trail Award and The Crisp Award (both founded in 1910), the Trail-Crisp Award is presented at intervals with preference to early and mid-career researchers. A bronze medal and purse is presented to the recipient of the award.

Eligibility Criteria:

  • Open to any scientist of any nationality, in any field, using microscopy
  • For their outstanding contribution to microscopy
  • Nominee cannot, at the time of nomination, be a member of Council
  • Nominee can be any age, but preference is given to early and mid-career researchers
  • Nominee does not need to be a Fellow of the Society
  • We do not accept self-nominations

Nominations should be submitted by completing the downloadable form and sending to by 30 November.


  • Dakota E McCoy (2021)
  • Andrew Chick (2018)
  • Johannes Girstmair (2017)
  • Imogen Sparks (2016)
  • Not awarded (2015)
  • Silvia Pressel (2014)
  • S. Blackmore (1987)
  • K. Fredga (1984)
  • J.M. Pettitt (1982)
  • T. Orvig (1978)
  • B.E.S. Gunning (1974)
  • G.F. Leedale (1972)
  • J. Heslop-Harrison (1967

  • L.E.R. Picken (1960)
  • Irene Manton (1954)
  • C.D. Darlington and Honor B. Fell (1948)
  • C.F.A. Pantin (1937)
  • Kathleen B. Blackburn (1930)
  • R. Chambers (1925)
  • Dame Helen Gwynne-Vaughan (1920)
  • L. Doncaster (1915)
  • E.A. Michin (1910)

  • Mary Agard Pocock (1957)
  • J. Scourfield (1940)
  • H.C. Cannon (1927)
  • R.J. Tillyard (1917)
  • C.F.U. Meek (1912)
Dakota McCoy

Dakota E. McCoy, Harvard University, Trail-Crisp Award 2021

Dakota E. (Cody) McCoy is a biologist whose innovative use of microscopy has revealed new insights into the phenomenon of colour. Using SEM, micro-CT, and ray tracing models, Cody and her colleagues showed that some birds-of-paradise have “super black” feathers that absorb as much as 99.95% of incident light—rivalling antireflective man-made materials—due to novel micro-scale structures which trap and iteratively absorb light. This “super black” structural colour evolved convergently at least 15 times in birds. Super black is a remarkable convergence between distantly-related animals subject to intense sexual selection. In both birds and spiders, super black hijacks innate sensory circuitry that controls for ambient lighting, causing nearby colours to look impossibly bright.

She paired scanning electron microscopy with finite-difference time-domain optical simulations to discover that peacock spiders—the arachnid analogue of birds-of-paradise—have an array of light-focusing bumps (“microlenses”), optimally sized and shaped to absorb more, and reflect less, light in partnership with melanin pigments.

Typically structure colour in nature is studied at the nano-scale, but Cody has shown that micro-scale structures have a significant impact on appearance, and thus natural history. Her work pairs microscopy—and microscopic discovery- with evolutionary theory. Her discoveries have inspired not only new studies of structural light manipulation in many animals, but also have had wide-ranging impact in fields as diverse as new solar technologies and bio-inspired artwork.

Dr Andrew Chick FLS, Medal winner 2018
Dr Andrew Chick FLS, Medal winner 2018
Dr Johannes Girstmair, Medal Winner 2017
Dr Johannes Girstmair, Medal Winner 2017