Hester Sheehan receives Prix Schläfli award 2018 in Biology

Nightclub visitors know that when they wear white, their clothes take on a special glow in UV light. But it took researchers a long time to realise that plants have a very similar "nightlife": The ways in which the colours of flowers determine which pollinating insects and birds they will attract, have long been an important field of research. But the researchers – who mostly work during normal working hours – only focused on the situation during daylight, on bright and vibrant flowers and eyes that specialise in seeing colour.

In her research Hester Sheehan also looked at the way this phenomenon works during the night: boring white petunias that appear midnight black in the UV spectrum. They are an eye-catcher for nectar-hunting moths that are active during the night.

With the Prix Schläfli the Swiss Academy of Sciences (SCNAT) honours the four most important discoveries and solutions carried out by young researchers at Swiss universities.

Hester Sheehan was awarded the Prix Schläfli 2018 in Biology for the publication "MYB-FL controls gain and loss of floral UV absorbance, a key trait affecting pollinator preference and reproductive isolation", which she published as part of her doctoral studies at the University of Bern in the group of Prof. Cris Kuhlemeier, Swiss Plant Science Web member. Hester moved on to the University of Cambridge for a postdoc position.