Dr Benjamin Van Doren
Benjamin, University of Oxford, for his project ‘Flexibility in Avian Migration Across Scales’
This is a remarkable piece of work comprising six data chapters with a central theme of avian migration. This quality of this thesis is best summed up our Awards committee member: “Without exaggerating, I think this is the best thesis I have ever read (having been external and internal examiner for over 20 students and been the supervisor of another 25 that have successfully defended). There are no ‘filler’ chapters here, each represents a substantial contribution to the field. Indeed, I have already read many of them as they have been published (often in high profile journals such as Science, PNAS and Current Biology). Chapters 2, 4 & 5 in particular have had, and will continue to have, major impacts on the study of migration in birds (and migration in general) and Chapter 6 has recently been published and likewise well-received (I had also read this prior to receiving the thesis). The thesis combines existing data sets and field observations to produce a valuable contribution to our understanding of multiple, and often very different aspects of bird migration, all set within an evolutionary context. It is rare to receive a thesis of such quality, let alone one that covers deals with a topic in such a diverse and insightful way.