The W. D. Hamilton Award

The W.D. Hamilton Award for Outstanding Student Presentation will be given to a student who has presented an outstanding talk at the annual meeting. Finalists will present their papers during a day-long symposium of Hamilton award candidate talks.

The most competitive talks will be those that can convey a complete story. Such talks are most likely to be given by students who are close to completing their dissertations or by former students who wish to present results from a dissertation defended within the past year. Talks that primarily present preliminary data or just an initial part of a dissertation are not likely to be competitive, and we strongly suggest that those students wait to compete for this award.

The winner of the award will receive $1,000 and a one-year membership to the Society for the Study of Evolution, which includes a one-year subscription to the journal Evolution. Up to two Honorable Mentions will each receive a one-year membership to the Society for the Study of Evolution, including a subscription to Evolution.

Eligibility: The presenter must currently be enrolled in a graduate program or have received her or his degree within twelve months of the date of the annual meeting, and must be a member of the SSE. Visit the SSE web site to become a member.

Application Procedure: Submit a 400-word abstract and talk title here by 11:59 p.m. on February 20. Finalists will be notified by March 13. This year, finalists will receive a registration waiver and a $500 travel stipend from the SSE.

Login to access the – Hamilton Award Application

Selecting Finalists: The award committee will select talks for consideration based on abstract quality. After deliberation, the committee will directly contact each student, informing them of their potential selection as a finalist. The best abstracts will be clearly written, providing relevant background, justification, methods, results, and implications. Abstracts should communicate that a comprehensive study has been assembled. Again, students who have not reached such a stage with their research will not be competitive and are strongly encouraged to delay their application to the Hamilton competition.

Judging Talks: Presentations will be judged by SSE members. Criteria evaluated will include research creativity, quality of methodology, comprehensiveness of the study, importance and novelty of the discoveries, validity of conclusions drawn from the results, clear and succinct communication of ideas, logic and organization of the narrative, placement of research into the bigger picture, use of an exciting and engaging narrative style, use of clear and well-organized slides, and use of effective figures and tables.


Award Recipients: 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015

2015 Recipients

Co-Award Winner: Maude Baldwin, Harvard University
"The evolution of sweet taste perception in hummingbirds"   Advisor: Scott Edwards

Co-Award Winner: Sarah Fitzpatrick, Colorado State University
"Gene flow from an adaptively divergent source causes genetic rescue, not outbreeding depression, in two wild populations of Trinidadian guppies"   Advisor: Chris Funk


2015 Honorable Mention

Nathaniel Sharp, University of Toronto
"Experimental evidence for variation in mutation rate due to condition-dependent DNA repair"    Advisor: Aneil Agrawal

2014 Recipients

Winner: Daniel Field, Yale University
"Late evolutionary origin of modern bird flight inferred from shoulder allometry"   Advisor: Jacques A. Gauthier


2014 Honorable Mention

Benjamin Liebeskind, University of Texas, Austin
"What ion channel gene duplications can tell us about the origin(s) of the nervous system"    Advisor: David Hillis, Harold Zakon

Megan Peterson, University of California, Santa Cruz
"Life history selection drives the early evolution of reproductive barriers in Mimulus guttatus"    Advisor: Kathleen Kay   

2013 Recipients

Winner: Emily Jacobs-Palmer, Harvard University
"Prkar1a shapes the development of a sexually selected sperm trait in Peromyscus mice"    Mentor: Hopi Hoekstra


2013 Honorable Mention

Zoe Assaf, Stanford University
"Recessive mutations interfere with selective sweeps"    Mentor: Dmitri Petrov

Matthew McGee, University of California, Davis
"The evolution of cichlid craniofacial diversity"    Mentor: Peter Wainwright   

Rebecca Satterwhite, University of Houston
"Testing the limits of adaptation: Jacks-of-all-trades become masters of none after 6,000 generations"    Mentor: Tim Cooper

2012 Recipients

Co-Award Winner: Christopher Martin, University of California, Davis
"Direct field measurement of a multi-peak fitness landscape for hybrids spanning a sympatric adaptive radiation of pupfishes"    Mentor: Peter Wainwright

Co-Award Winner: Aleeza Gerstein, University of British Columbia
"Evolve or die: A characterization of adaptive mutations in yeast"    Mentor: Sally Otto


2012 Honorable Mention

Erin McCullough, University of Montana
"Elaborate weapons: the costs of producing and carrying horns in a giant rhinoceros beetle"    Mentor: Doug Emlen

2011 Winner

William Ratcliff, University of Minnesota
Title: Experimental evolution of multicellularity


2011 Honorable Mention

Sarah Bodbyl Roels, University of Kansas
Rapid evolution caused by pollinator loss in Mimulus guttatus

Christopher Oufiero, University of California at Riverside
Does the evolution of a sexually selected trait compromise sprint and endurance performance in Xiphophorus swordtails and their close relatives?

2010 Winner

Amanda Izzo, University of Michigan
Title: Females gain direct benefits in a non-economic, lek-based mating system
Studying the European paper wasp, Amanda Izzo asked what benefits do females gain by mating with males of different phenotypes. Her work addresses the puzzle of female preferences in systems where thie is no obvious resource transfers. She showed that transfer of the sperm mass to the female during mating confers a direct overwinter survival advantage that depends on the quality of males. In contrast to the known cases where males transfer deleterious compounds to females, this work presents a novel example of a beneficial transfer.


2010 Honorable Mention

Benjamin Blackman, Duke University
Gene duplication and evolutionary innovation during sunflower domestication

Christopher Martin, University of California – Davis
Exceptional morphological diversification rates in two adaptive radiations of Cyprinodon pupfishes

David Lowry, University of Texas – Austin
A life-history altering chromosomal inversion involved in adaptation and ecological reproductive isolation

Ian Wang, University of California – Davis
Reduced conspicuousness evolves with increased toxicity in an aposematic poison frog