Virpi Lummaa is an outstanding evolutionary biologist and her work has led to significant advances in our understanding of the ecological causes and evolutionary consequences of variation in reproductive success and longevity. Her research on humans, based on detailed pedigrees, and birth and death records, revealed the selection pressures shaping life history in pre-industrial populations, and in so doing allowed for the first rigorous, scientific examination of human behavioural ecology. These findings have revealed the complex trade-offs shaping recent human evolution.
Virpi’s research also focuses on the evolutionary ecology of Asian elephants, using a unique multi-generational demographic dataset collected from a large population of elephants working in the Myanmar timber industry. This innovative project has already greatly expanded our understanding of the factors affecting health, fertility and mortality rates of these elephants. Virpi has assisted in devising strategies to improve the management and healthcare of the elephants in order to achieve a self-sustaining working population that does not require supplementation from the wild. Virpi is a dedicated mentor and has a well-deserved international reputation as a champion of young researchers. It is a pleasure to present her with the Scientific Medal.