Ecological Society of America announces 2015 award recipients

logoFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, 7 May 2015
Contact: Liza Lester, 202-833-8773 ext. 211,



The Ecological Society of America (ESA) will present nine awards recognizing outstanding contributions to ecology in new discoveries, teaching, sustainability, diversity, and lifelong commitment to the profession during the Society’s 100th Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland. The awards ceremony will take place on Monday, August 10, at 8 AM in the Key Ballroom, Hilton Baltimore. More information about ESA awards is available here.  


Eminent Ecologist Award: Eric Pianka
The Eminent Ecologist Award is given to a senior ecologist in recognition of an outstanding body of ecological work or sustained ecological contributions of extraordinary merit.  During his 50-year academic career, Pianka, a professor at the University of Texas since 1968, published nearly 200 scientific papers, several of which became “Citation Classics.” His textbook “Evolutionary Ecology,” first published in 1974, went through six editions and has been translated into multiple languages.  Pianka’s key and durable contributions to empirical ecology encompass wide‐ranging studies of lizard community ecology across many continents and the  discovery of many new lizard species. In 2004, Pianka was chosen as the Herpetologists League’s “Distinguished Herpetologist” and in 2006 the Texas Academy of Science named him “Distinguished Scientist.” All of his conceptual contributions are grounded in a thorough understanding of natural history with a deep love of the natural world. His work has influenced many individuals, both inside the ecological profession and beyond.

Eugene P. Odum Education Award:  Nathaniel Wheelwright
The Eugene P. Odum Award recipients have demonstrated their ability to relate basic ecological principles to human affairs through teaching, outreach, and mentoring activities. ESA honors Wheelwright of Bowdoin College, whose 29 years of exemplary teaching has influenced over 49 students to pursue a Ph.D. in ecology or related fields. He has co-authored peer-reviewed papers with more than 25 undergraduate students. Beyond his responsibilities at Bowdoin, Wheelwright has served as a visiting faculty resource person for over 20 Organization of Tropical Studies courses, mentoring hundreds of graduate students from dozens of universities. While on a Fulbright grant at the University of Botswana, Wheelwright taught more than 400 students and established the University’s first natural history club. 

Commitment to Human Diversity in Ecology Award: Mary McKenna
This ESA award recognizes long-standing contributions of an individual towards increasing the diversity of future ecologists through mentoring, teaching, or outreach. ESA honors McKenna, a professor at Howard University, for her leadership in developing diversity-enhancing programs within the Society and working to improve minority access to all Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields. In her 29 years at Howard University, McKenna’s greatest contribution to promoting the diversity of future ecologists has been her ability to develop structured, engaging and meaningful undergraduate research mentoring programs for aspiring minority students.

ESA Distinguished Service Citation: Alan Covich
The Distinguished Service Citation is given to recognize long and distinguished volunteer service to ESA, the larger scientific community, and the larger purpose of ecology in the public welfare. Covich, a professor at the University of Georgia, has contributed over 40-years of service to ESA in many roles and was elected as ESA President in 2008. His work to advance the science of ecology and foster international cooperation and communication through other service activities includes his leadership roles as Past-president of North American Benthological Society, American Institute of Biological Science, and INTECOL.

Whittaker Distinguished Ecologist Award: Inderjit
This ESA award recognizes an ecologist outside of the United States who has earned a doctorate and an outstanding record of contributions in ecology. Inderjit is Director of the Centre for the Study of Degraded Ecosystems at the University of Delhi, where he is also a professor. Noteworthy is his outstanding and meticulous experimental work into the mechanisms responsible for plant invasions. These insights have been presented in over 20 invited-plenary lectures worldwide. He has penned eight books on plant ecology and numerous peer-reviewed journal articles.

Honorary Membership Award: Stuart Bunn
This ESA award is given to a distinguished ecologist who has made exceptional contributions to ecology and whose principal residence and site of ecological research are outside of North America. Bunn is Director of the Australian Rivers Institute, Griffith University, and is one of Australia’s leading freshwater scientists, earning national and international recognition for his outstanding contributions in water science and management. His research has resulted in over 250 technical publications, of which more than half are peer-reviewed journal papers receiving 900 citations per year. Bunn also serves in formal advisory roles with international and Australian government agencies on water resource management and policy. In 2007, Professor Bunn was awarded the Australian Society for Limnology Medal in recognition of his outstanding contribution to research and management of Australia’s inland waters.

W.S. Cooper Award: Carissa D. Brown and Mark Vellend
The Cooper Award honors an outstanding contribution to the field of geobotany, physiographic ecology, plant succession or the distribution of plants along environmental gradients. ESA recognizes Brown of theMemorial University of Newfoundland and Vellend of the University of Sherbrooke for their paper “Non-climatic constraints on upper elevational plant range expansion under climate change,” published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The study focuses on interactions between soil, climate, and biotc factors on plant performance and distributions.

George Mercer Award: Marcelo Ardón, Jennifer L. Morse, Ben P. Colman, and Emily S. Bernhardt
The Mercer Award recognizes an outstanding and recently-published ecological research paper by young scientists. Ardón (East Carolina University), Morse (Portland State University), Colman (Duke University), and Bernhardt (Duke University) co-authored “Drought-induced saltwater incursion leads to increased wetland nitrogen export,” published in Global Change Biology. In the tradition of landscape-scale ecosystem ecology, their study finds that saltwater intrusion has the potential to liberate vast stores of legacy nitrogen from past agricultural fertilizer use, leading to ecosystem degradation and coastal eutrophication on a massive scale.

Murray F. Buell Award: Nina Lany
This ESA award is given for excellence in ecology to a student for the outstanding oral paper presented at the ESA Annual Meeting. Lany, now a postdoctoral research associate at Michigan State University, presented “Top-down vs. bottom-up is a function of temperature for forest Lepidoptera,” at the Society’s Annual Meeting in Sacramento, CA in 2014, while completing her doctorate at Dartmouth College. The study measured the daily survival rate of caterpillars finding that negative indirect effects on caterpillars propagated through predators and food quality can outweigh the benefits of faster development time at higher temperatures.

To learn more about the August 9–14, 2015 ESA Annual Meeting see:

ESA welcomes attendance from members of the press and waives registration fees for reporters and institutional public information officers. Information about our policy on press credentials and press room support is available on the Centennial Meeting website. To apply, please contact ESA Communications Officer Liza Lester directly at


The Ecological Society of America (ESA), founded in 1915, is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge, committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 10,000 member Society publishes six journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society’s Annual Meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in ecological science. Visit the ESA website at

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