The Spanish evolutionary geneticist Moises Exposito-Alonso used the thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana) to investigate whether and how well plants can adapt to global climate change. In his dissertation, supervised by the Managing Director of the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, Detlef Weigel, Exposito-Alonso was able to show which mark natural selection leaves in the genome of a species in real time.
For this, he conducted a large-scale field experiment in Spain and Germany to study the effect of drought stress on the plant´s genome under different temperature conditions. The genetic information was then compared with climate data to estimate how selection pressure will affect the genome under a future climate. The studies showed that a very large part of the genome will be affected by altered selection and that species such as the thale cress will be exposed to a northward migrating wave of increased selection.
Part of the dissertation was published in the scientific journal Nature under the title "Natural selection on the Arabidopsis thaliana genome in present and future climates". Most recently, Moises Exposito-Alonso received the Young Investigator Award of the American Society of Naturalists in the USA. Moreover this year, he was also cited by Forbes in the list of "30 under 30", which contains particularly promising young entrepreneurs, artists and scientists.
Last year, his work was already awarded the Leopoldina Prize for young scientists, the Wilhelm Pfeffer Prize of the German Botanical Society, the Reinhold and Maria Teufel Foundation's PhD Prize for outstanding dissertations in the natural sciences and the Dissertation Prize of the University of Tübingen.
This summer, he will also be awarded the Otto Hahn Medal of the Max Planck Society. Although he finished his doctorate in the end of 2018, Exposito-Alonso already heads his own research group at the Carnegie Institution for Science on the campus of Stanford University in California.
The Freudenberg company from Weinheim in Baden-Württemberg is the founder of the Karl Freudenberg Prize. The award ceremony was originally planned for May 2020, but has been postponed to a date not yet fixed.