CFL Grad Student Tyler Butts Wins Cushing Prize

Picture of Tyler Butts, holding up a fish on a stringer in front of a small waterbody
Tyler with a sample organism slightly larger than a zooplankton!

Here at the CFL, we love bragging on our students, faculty and alumni, so we’re very excited to congratulate Tyler Butts on receiving the 2022 Cushing Prize for a paper published in the Journal of Plankton Research. 

The annual prize honors the memory of David Cushing, founding editor of the Journal of Plankton Research and distinguishes the best paper by an early career stage scientist (aged 30 or younger) published in the journal each year.

According to an announcement from the journal, the goal of the prize is to “foster, interesting and high-quality papers by young scientists.” Tyler’s paper, entitled, “Contribution of zooplankton nutrient recycling and effects on phytoplankton size structure in a hypereutrophic reservoir” was published last December. Co-authors were Eric Moody, an assistant professor of biology at Middlebury College (and former UW-Madison student), and CFL assistant professor, Grace Wilkinson.

Sampling for the prize-winning paper required fieldwork in all kinds of conditions.
Sampling for the prize-winning paper required fieldwork in all kinds of conditions.

For the study, Butts did took weekly sampling trips out into the (often) extremely green waters of a very nutrient-rich reservoir to collect data on both zooplankton (tiny free-floating animals) and phytoplankton (tiny, free-floating plants). That data revealed that zooplankton were having a substantial impact on both nutrient availability and size distribution of phytoplankton. In short, Tyler says, the study underscored that “hypereutrophic ecosystems are weird and they don’t always function how we expect them to!”

Tyler says he’s thrilled to be included in the impressive list of past winners of the award and notes that he shares the “same strong love of zooplankton” as Dr. Cushing. “I hope to continue asking questions about zooplankton and food webs to understand how ecosystems will respond to an increasingly changing world,” he says.