Westchester Native Wins Prestigious International Zoology Award

Greenburgh resident Shana Caro, whose grandfather, Robert Caro, won the Pulitzer Prize, is following in her family’s footsteps.

Shana Caro discusses the behavior of birds begging for food and why some parents choose to ignore their begging chicks.

Photo Credit: StJohnsCollegeOxford

Columbia University announced that at the scientific Oscars, its fellow, Caro, won the Thomas Henry Huxley Award & Marsh Prize from the London Zoological Society for the best thesis in the United Kingdom.

The Thomas Henry Huxley Award and Marsh Prize is presented for the best Ph.D. thesis each year. Each university in the United Kingdom submits one doctoral thesis for consideration, and Caro was this year’s winner, for her thesis “Social and Environmental Factors in the Evolution of Signaling.”

The award is run in partnership with the Zoological Society of London and recognizes a postgraduate research student whose thesis has made a significant contribution to a particular scientific field. Nominees are considered from a University of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, on the basis of original work, which has been awarded the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the academic year in which the award is presented.

According to Caro, "(she) is an evolutionary biology interested in social behavior – particularly in how signaling systems evolve when there are evolutionary conflicts of interest between signallers and receivers. Using parent-offspring signalling in birds (begging) as a framework, (she) investigates how ecology and life history traits affect communication both across and within species."

The projects are then judged by a panel of experts from the Zoological Society of London, who chose Caro as the winner.

According to Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner, “this elegant thesis constitutes an extraordinary body of work. Shana has already published in top international journals, including a paper in Nature Communications, in which she shows that different signaling systems seem to be evolutionarily stable in different bird species, and describes how this is driven by ecological differences.”

The Zoological Society of London said that Caro’s thesis “is a demanding and significant piece of scholarship which she approached with intellectual vigor and a positive attitude, and the reward is an extraordinary body of work.

“Shana combines attention to detail and grasp of the 'bigger picture', which is rare in researchers at her career stage. She already has two papers in top international journals, one in Nature Communications and one in PNAS.”

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