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Soil ecologists Elly Morriën of the University of Amsterdam and Emilia Hannula of Leiden University will receive the gold prize medal from Teylers Tweede Genootschap, part of the Teylers Foundation, on Friday 5 November. The foundation has been active since 1778 to stimulate art and science. In accordance with Pieter Teyler's will, the first directors set up two societies to organize competitions on important current or scientific themes. The best entry is still awarded a gold medal. In addition, the first administrators founded Teylers Museum, which opened its doors in 1784.

The Teylers gold prize medal. Copyright: Tylers Foundation

Soil life

In 2017, Teylers Tweede Genootschap launched a competition created by Prof. Dr. Louise Vet, former director of the Netherlands Institute of Ecology and professor by special appointment in evolutionary ecology at Wageningen University. The challenge was to write 'a critical study into optimizing the sustainable multifunctionality of soils.'

Soil life forms the foundation of our existence. The bacteria, fungi and small animals in soils make nutrients from organic matter available for plant growth, suppress pests and diseases, ensure a suitable soil structure and water retention capacity, prevent erosion, ensure that drinking and surface water is clean and can slow down climate change by sequestering carbon. However, there is a threat of soil depletion, partly due to intensive food production. How can we prevent this and feed the soil so that soil life retains all its important functions?

Winners

Dr. Elly Morriën, assistant professor at the University of Amsterdam’s Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED) and dr Emilia Hannula, assistant professor at the Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML) at Leiden University win the gold prize with their entry ‘Werken en feesten vormt schoone geesten’ (‘Working and partying shape beautiful minds’). During the program on Friday 5 November in the historic Auditorium of Teylers Museum, they will give a summary of their submission and Prof. Dr. Louise Vet will explain the jury report. The heavy prize medal awarded to the winners was designed in 1778 by Johan George Holtzhey and is still struck in real gold. There is a symbolic representation on the front and space for the names of the winner(s) on the reverse.

The meeting (in Dutch) starts on Friday 5 November at 3.30 pm and can be attended digitally via this link.