María Natalia Umaña received the American Society of Naturalists' Jasper Loftus-Hills Young Investigator Award.

The award honors outstanding promise and accomplishments of four young investigators each year who conduct integrative work in the fields of ecology, evolutionary biology, behavioral ecology and genetics.

“It is a great honor and I am thrilled to have been selected to receive this award.” Umaña said the award encourages her to continue to do her best in her ecological research. Her research interests include tropical ecology, functional trait ecology and plant community ecology. “Currently, most of my research is based on tropical forests from Asia and the Americas, where I collect the empirical data and further analyze using a variety of statistical and modeling approaches,” her webpage states.

Jeremy Fox, an ecologist at the University of Calgary and a former chair of the award’s nominating committee, wrote a Dynamic Ecology blog post about his recent (2018) experience. “The YIA has a proud history of going to investigators who go on to become leaders in their fields,” he wrote. "The strength and diversity of the winners reflect the strength and diversity of the applicant pool, both in terms of their research areas and demographics."

Umaña will attend the next scheduled Evolution meeting to present a talk about her research.

The award commemorates Jasper Loftus-Hills (1946-1974), an Australian biologist of exceptional promise who died tragically during the course of fieldwork three years after receiving his Ph.D at the University of Melbourne. A sad connection is that Loftus-Hills was an alumnus of the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology.