The prize honours the memory of David Cushing, Founding Editor of Journal of Plankton Research. It is awarded annually for the best paper by an early career stage scientist published in the journal during the previous year. The prize helps foster the interesting and high-quality papers by young scientists that David Cushing so actively supported.

The 2016 David Cushing Prize has been awarded to Marie-Pier Hébert for her paper with Beatrix Beisner and Roxane Maranger, “Linking zooplankton communities to ecosystem functioning: toward an effect-trait framework” (J. Plankton Res.39, xxx–xxx).

Marie-Pier Hébert completed her Bachelor and Master of Science in Biology at the Université de Montréal (QC, Canada), under the mentorship of Dr Roxane Maranger and Dr Beatrix Beisner (Université du Québec à Montréal). Her MSc research involved linking zooplankton communities to aquatic biogeochemical cycles through the use of functional traits. She compiled and conducted a meta-analysis of marine and freshwater zooplankton traits influencing carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus cycles, leading to three publications, including the Cushing Prize winner in Journal of Plankton Research this year. The prize-winning paper is the most conceptual of the three, focusing on classifying traits with a view for facilitating organismal-ecosystem functioning linkages. Marie-Pier's other M.Sc. work quantifies and compares trait relationships within major taxonomic groups and between marine and freshwater environments (Ecology (2016) 97, 1069–1080), and compiles the 9000 synthesized traits in a companion paper (Ecology (2016) 97, 1081).

Despite her early career stage, Marie-Pier has had the opportunity to work on a series of other projects as well. She participated in a synthesis of microbial abundances and processes in the warming Arctic Ocean, aiming at characterizing regulating factors and identifying general patterns between Pacific-fed and Atlantic-fed sectors (Prog. Oceanog. (2015) 139, 221–232). In 2015, she had the opportunity to work as a research assistant at the Department of Ecosystem Research of the Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB; Berlin, Germany) with Dr Rita Adrian. There, she worked on the long plankton time series from Müggelsee, building taxon-specific trait matrices for phytoplankton and zooplankton. Also, together with Dr Alena Gsell and Dr Deniz Özkundacki, she has quantified food web interactions and network stability in Müggelsee over a 35-year period, assessing factors regulating plankton dynamics in conjunction with species invasions and climate change (Ecol. Ind. (2016) 65, 76–88). More recently, Marie-Pier helped set up a new set of 96 experimental mesocosms (Large Experimental Array of Ponds; LEAP) at the Gault Nature Reserve of McGill University (QC, Canada), as a research assistant for Dr Andrew Gonzalez and Dr Gregor Fussmann. Together with the LEAP team, she conducted a multiple stressor experiment to assess interactive effects of land use-related disturbances (i.e., herbicide, insecticide and fertilizers) on freshwater bacterio-, phyto- and zooplankton communities. As part of this large collaborative project, she is interested in characterizing differences in organismal responses between trophic levels, and disentangling various zooplankton responses under the effects of multiple stressors.

Marie-Pier is currently a PhD candidate at McGill University (QC) under the co-supervision of Dr Gregor Fussmann and Dr Beatrix Beisner. She is investigating how climate and land use changes alter plankton communities, individual physiology and trophic interactions, and in turn, how this may modulate feedback on ecosystem functioning. She is conducting a series of experiments emulating interactive effects of climate and land use changes, such as delayed lake ice cover, warming, nutrient loading and altered resource quality. Through her work, she hopes to contribute to a better understanding of, and ability to predict, organismal-level responses to anthropogenic stressors and their cascading effects in perturbed freshwater ecosystems.