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Ecological Society of America announces 2016 award recipients

Details on the 2016 ESA Annual Meeting in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, 19 May 2016
Contact: Liza Lester, 202-833-8773 ext. 211, gro.asenull@retseLL

The Ecological Society of America (ESA) will present the 2016 awards recognizing outstanding contributions to ecology in new discoveries, teaching, sustainability, diversity, and lifelong commitment to the profession during the Society’s Annual Meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Fl. The awards ceremony will take place on Monday, August 8, at 8 AM in the Floridian Ballroom AB, Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center. A preliminary meeting program is available on the meeting website. Learn more about ESA awards on our home website.

Eminent Ecologist Award: Jerry F. Franklin
The Eminent Ecologist Award honors a senior ecologist for an outstanding body of ecological work or sustained ecological contributions of extraordinary merit. Jerry Franklin is renowned in the field of ecology for applying forestry research to management, challenging clear-cutting practices to mold a “new forestry” in the later 20th century attuned to healthy forest ecosystems. He taught foresters to value snags, fallen trees, and woody debris and urged forest managers to learn from natural patterns of disturbance and regeneration in forests. His emphasis that old growth forest is not “decadent wasteful stands” just needing a thorough clear-cutting, but instead a vital component of a healthy mosaic of forest types in managed landscapes, was revolutionary in forestry. He was instrumental in linking early landscape ecology to forestry, helping to develop landscape ecology as a discipline.

Dr. Franklin’s strong record of ecological scholarship on the old-growth and regenerating conifer forests of the Pacific Northwest stretches back to 1961. His work on the role of coarse woody debris in forest dynamics, and on articulating landscape and site-specific characteristics of successional dynamics, has been very influential, with implications ranging from biodiversity maintenance to carbon storage. Several of his papers have been cited thousands of times. He has been a leader in analyzing of the return of plant life to Mt. St. Helens following the 1980 eruption, developing influential ideas of “ecological memory” or biological legacies in ecosystem recovery from natural catastrophe.

Born in a small town on the coast of Oregon, an early love for the woods led Dr. Franklin to forestry and a lifetime study of ecology, starting with the USDA Forest Service in 1959. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in forest management from Oregon State University in 1959 and 1961, going on to complete a doctorate in botany and soils at Washington State University in 1966. He has mentored the careers of a wide range of professionals, both in and out of the academy, as a teacher at Oregon State University and at the University of Washington in Seattle, where he has been a professor of ecosystem analysis in the College of Forest Resources since 1986. He served as President of the Ecological Society of America in 1993–4.

Dr. Franklin has played a highly significant role in developing major, multi-institutional programs aimed at forest ecology at the broadest scale, including the International Biological Program (IBP) in the 1960s and early 1970s, and later the Long-term Ecological Research Program (LTER). As the first program officer for the Ecosystem Studies Program at the National Science Foundation (NSF), he helped nurture the LTER network around the country. He had a particularly significant influence in fostering research and teaching at the Andrews LTER site, widely viewed as one of the best in the LTER network, and the Wind River Canopy Crane Research Facility. The long-term studies that Dr. Franklin presciently set up many years ago have already produced outstanding scientific insights and will be paying intellectual dividends for decades to come.

Robert H. MacArthur Award: Anurag A. Agrawal
The MacArthur Award, presented in alternate years, recognizes the contributions of an outstanding ecologist in mid-career. Anurag Agrawal of Cornell University has shown consistent leadership in opening up new research themes in ecology and continues to push the envelope with novel approaches to science, teaching, and community building. Like Robert H. MacArthur, Dr. Agrawal synthesizes conceptual themes within the field, drawing together topics as far ranging as the causes and consequences of variation in plant biodiversity, chemical ecology and coevolution, trait versus density-mediated interactions, and the interdisciplinary pursuit of environmental sustainability. His research has impact outside of ecology. His early work on phenotypic plasticity is widely cited in the fields of neurobiology, systems science, molecular biology, and beyond. He seamlessly applies his amazing natural history and empirical understanding of his study systems to develop new and exciting concepts in general ecological theory, grounded in the real world.

Eugene P. Odum Award for Excellence in Ecology Education: Carolyn L. Thomas and Bob R. Pohlad
Odum Award recipients demonstrate their ability to relate basic ecological principles to human affairs through teaching, outreach, and mentoring activities. Bob Pohlad and Carolyn Thomas have been a passionate and committed team of educators in the field of ecology for almost four decades. While the work of either alone would be worthy of recognition with the Odum Award, this married team represents such an outstanding example of long-term mutual support and collaboration, both professionally and personally, that their colleagues who submitted their nomination feel that a shared award is the most appropriate way to honor their legacy in ecological education.

In their work as professors at Ferrum College, Drs. Thomas and Pohlad focus on integrating technology and research experiences into the ecology classroom. For decades, they have engaged students and local citizens in sophisticated, long-term, water quality monitoring projects in regional lakes, serving as pioneers in citizen science. They mentored K-12 science teachers through the School Yard Ecology Project, providing professional development for teachers to communicate ecological concepts in effective and engaging ways to younger students. They are founding members of the Collaborations through Appalachian Watersheds Project (CAWS) and the Ecological Research as Education Network (EREN), both large-scale endeavors focused on developing innovative ways for ecologists and their students at primarily undergraduate institutions to collaborate and learn through authentic, multi-site research projects. Finally, they have both served the Ecological Society of America as Chairs of the Education Section, giving generously of their time to help other ecologists educate more effectively.

ESA Distinguished Service Citation: Carol A. Brewer
The Distinguished Service Citation recognizes long and distinguished volunteer service to ESA, the larger scientific community, and the larger purpose of ecology in the public welfare. Carol Brewer, a professor emeritus at the University of Montana, has a long and distinguished record of service to the Ecological Society of America and to the broader science community, especially through her efforts in science and conservation education. She holds a B.S. in education as well as a B.A. in biology. In 1993, while still a doctoral student, the society asked her to be one of the campus leads for the new, NSF-supported “Schoolyard Ecology for Elementary School Teachers (SYEFEST) project. Shortly after receiving her Ph.D., she served on ESA’s Standing Committee on Education (1995–99) and became chair of the Education Section (1996–97).

Dr. Brewer helped develop ESA’s Education Office, now the highly successful Education and Diversity Office. She served two terms as ESA’s Vice-President for Education and Human Resources (2000–2006), chaired the Education and Human Resources Committee (2000–2006), and led ESA’s survey of undergraduate ecology education. Most recently, she served as Program Chair for the society’s 2015 Centennial Meeting in Baltimore, Md. Dr. Brewer is active in the Long Term Ecological Research network and was a founding member of the board of directors of the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON). She co-founded the citizen science Project Budburst in 2007.

Commitment to Human Diversity in Ecology Award: Frank P. Day
This ESA award recognizes long-standing contributions of an individual towards increasing the diversity of future ecologists through mentoring, teaching, or outreach. Frank Day, a professor of ecology and eminent scholar at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va. is known for mentoring many graduate and undergraduate students as well as his stellar career as a wetland scientist. For 14 years, he has been instrumental in obtaining National Science Foundation funding and developing and implementing wetland science career development mentoring programs for minority undergraduates. In 2002, as President of the Society of Wetland Scientists, he started the SWS Human Diversity Committee, developing their undergraduate mentoring infrastructure. He continues working on increasing minorities in wetland ecology in collaboration with ESA’s Strategies for Ecology Education Diversity and Sustainability (SEEDS) initiative and NSF’s Long Term Ecological Research Human Diversity Committee. Of the many students he has mentored in the study of wetlands, all have graduated with a B.S. or B.A. degree, 64 percent are currently enrolled in graduate school, and about half are employed in some capacity within a natural resource, wetland science or ecology field.

W.S. Cooper Award: Etienne Laliberté, Graham Zemunik, and Benjamin L. Turner
(2014) Environmental filtering explains variation in plant diversity along resource gradients. Science 345: 1602–1605. DOI: 10.1126/science.1256330

The Cooper Award honors the authors of an outstanding publication in the field of geobotany, physiographic ecology, plant succession or the distribution of plants along environmental gradients. William S. Cooper was a pioneer of physiographic ecology and geobotany, with a particular interest in the influence of historical factors, such as glaciations and climate history, on the pattern of contemporary plant communities across landforms. Dr. Laliberté of the Université de Montréal (at the University of Western Australia at the time of the study), Dr. Zemunik of the University of Western Australia, and Dr. Turner of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute take a similar geobotanical angle in a study that simultaneously addresses alternative hypotheses underlying a geographic plant diversity gradient. Specifically, they tackle an age-old question in ecology—what determines spatial variation in species diversity—using a cleverly chosen system, an ancient dune ecosystem in southwestern Australia. The end result is a rare, compelling, example of regional and historical processes being key to explaining a local-scale diversity gradient.

George Mercer Award: Jennifer R. Gremer and D. Lawrence Venable
(2014) Bet hedging in desert winter annual plants: optimal germination strategies in a variable environment. Ecology Letters 17: 380–387. DOI: 10.1111/ele.12241

The Mercer Award recognizes an outstanding and recently-published ecological research paper by young scientists. Unpredictable fluctuation in environmental conditions is a ubiquitous challenge for all forms of life. “Bet-hedging” names a strategy for dealing with environmental variation by adopting physical characteristics that are not best suited to average conditions, but allow survival in a wide variety of conditions, sacrificing short-term success to minimize risk over time. In a synthesis of 30 years of data, with multiple modeling approaches, Jennifer Gremer and D. Lawrence Venable, both at the University of Arizona at the time of the study (Dr. Gremer has since moved to the University of California, Davis), present definitive evidence that delayed seed germination acts as a bet-hedging strategy in winter annual plants of the Sonoran Desert. Their elegant paper provides a test of an age-old problem, in an iconic system. As predicted, species that face more risk exhibit stronger bet-hedging. This paper is a model of how to test general, qualitative theoretical predictions by making them quantitative. It provides a convincing example in a classic system, while at the same time inspiring new questions concerning the evolution of life history strategies.

Sustainablility Science Award: Margaret A. Palmer and J.B. Ruhl
(2015) Aligning restoration science and the law to sustain ecological infrastructure for the future. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 13: 512–519. DOI:10.1890/150053

The Sustainability Science Award recognizes the authors of the scholarly work that makes the greatest contribution to the emerging science of ecosystem and regional sustainability through the integration of ecological and social sciences. Margaret Palmer and J.B. Ruhl tackle a critical issue in sustainability science: how the application of ecological science can be translated into effective policy that ensures the restoration of degraded ecosystems.

The complimentary expertise of the authors and their shared interest in restoration science and policy make this paper particularly noteworthy. Dr. Ruhl, director of Vanderbilt University’s Program on Law and Innovation and co-director of the Energy Environment and Land Use Program, has invested his career in legal and regulatory aspects of restoration and environmental science. As Director of the Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC), Margaret Palmer, a professor of entomology at the University of Maryland and director of the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC), brings a transformative vision for advancing research and public understanding of sustainability science.

They make the case that, while restoration is a crucial tool that is used in environmental policy, lack of a clear ecological context for what constitutes restoration leads to confusion in implementing policy. The key, they argue, is to include consideration of establishing self-sustaining living systems and the landscape and environmental context essential to recovery. The paper presents an actionable research plan that bridges science and policy and includes specific guidance about how to best incorporate a clear and science-based definition of restoration into administrative laws.

Innovation in Sustainability Science Award: Ariana E. Sutton-Grier, Kateryna Wowk, and Holly A. Bamford.
(2015) Future of our coasts: The potential for natural and hybrid infrastructure to enhance the resilience of our coastal communities, economies and ecosystems. Environmental Science & Policy 51: 137–148 DOI:10.1016/j.envsci.2015.04.006

The Innovation in Sustainability Science Award recognizes the authors of a peer-reviewed paper published in the past five years exemplifying leading-edge work on solution pathways to sustainability challenges. In the United States, Hurricane Sandy brought unprecedented attention to building resilience of coastal communities and ecosystems to the growing threats of storm surge and erosion. This has led to a focus on how both “natural infrastructure” and “hybrid infrastructure” that incorporates both natural and engineered features, can increase coastal protection.

Drs. Sutton-Grier, Wowk, and Bamford provide an exemplary example of how the integration of ecological and social science can inform and increase the sustainable management of coastal ecosystems worldwide. They synthesize available socio-environmental science about natural and hybrid infrastructure, including an analysis of the state of the U.S. policy landscape for coastal resilience, and laying out the key policy opportunities and the challenges to implementing natural and hybrid approaches. Their analysis is placed in a real-world context that highlights the importance of their own research and that of others related to natural and hybrid infrastructure. The paper has reached a wide-audience and promoted discussions about coastal resilience and sustainable management among a wide range of stakeholders including engineers, policy makers and coastal businesses.

Murray F. Buell Award: Cody S. Clements
The Buell award recognizes an outstanding research talk presented by a student at the ESA Annual Meeting. Panel members at the Centennial Annual Meeting of the ESA in Baltimore, Md. (August 2015) honored Cody S. Clements, a graduate student in the School of Biology at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Ga., for his presentation “Seaweeds protect corals from predatory starfish: competitors become accomplices as reefs degrade” (abstract). His work is highly significant because it speaks to reef species interactions that may mitigate coral loss due to climate and ocean pH shifts. It has important management implications and tests foundational concepts about context dependence in species interactions. Reviewers commented on the creativity of the experimental methodology, thorough controls and multiple approaches to the hypothesis. They praised the clarity and pacing of the presentation, supported with well-chosen photos, video and charts.

E. Lucy Braun Award: Timothy Fegel
The Braun award recognizes an outstanding poster presented by a student at the ESA Annual Meeting. Panel members at the Centennial Annual Meeting of the ESA in Baltimore, Md. (August 2015) honored Timothy Fegel, a graduate student at Colorado State University, for his poster “Biogeochemical attributes of ice glaciers and rock glacier in low latitude alpine ecosystems” (abstract). The amount and quality of nutrients, metals, and contaminants coming into water bodies from melted glaciers can have a huge impact in those water bodies’ communities and cascade down to other levels of the ecosystem. Mr. Fegel sampled microbial communities in a large number of glacier meltwaters across several mountain ranges. His work is a timely and important study under the impending increased glacier melting due to climate change. Reviewers praised his poise and articulate engagement with questions, and the clear layout of information on the poster.

Honorary Membership Award: Richard Hobbs
Honorary Membership 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. Richard Hobbs, a professor of restoration ecology in the School of Plant Biology at the University of Western Australia, is an innovative, collaborative scientist with proven capacity to bridge the fields of basic and applied ecology. He laid foundational work in the area of novel ecosystems, the theme of the forthcoming 2016 ESA Annual Meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Fl., and his research focuses on applying ecology in a rapidly changing world. He promotes ample, fruitful debate within our community and beyond.

Robert H. Whittaker Award: Simoneta Negrete-Yankelevich and Ezatollah Karami
The Whittaker Award recognizes an outstanding ecologist in a developing country who does not currently reside in the United States and is not a U.S. citizen. The award is open to ecologists at any career stage and covers expenses up to $1,200 for travel to the United States for research or to attend a meeting. Simoneta Negrete-Yankelevich is an outstanding researcher (equivalent to “senior scientist” at U.S. institutions) at the Instituto de Ecología A.C. (INECOL), in Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico. Her research focuses on soil ecology, its application to indigenous agroecosystems, and spatial ecology. She has a very active research career and many high profile accomplishments. Ezatollah Karami, a professor at Shiraz University in Iran, does applied research in agro-ecology and water sustainability. The selection committee was impressed with his contributions, and welcomes the re-integration of outstanding ecologist colleagues from Iran after that country’s many years of isolation.

Forest Shreve Student Research Fund: Nameer Baker and Camila Medeiros
The Shreve award supplies $1,000-2,000 to support ecological research by graduate or undergraduate student members of ESA in the hot deserts of North America (Sonora, Mohave, Chihuahua, and Vizcaino). Nameer Baker, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Irvine, works on the effects of climate on microbial decomposition and carbon cycling in desert systems. Camila Medeiros, beginning a doctoral program at the University of California, Los Angeles, focuses on the physiological ecology and mechanistic basis of species responses to water availability and drought in plant communities across California.

Learn more about the August 7–12, 2016 ESA Annual Meeting on the meeting website:

ESA welcomes attendance from members of the press and waives registration fees for reporters and public information officers. Information about our policy on press credentials and press room support is available on the 2016 Annual Meeting website. To apply, please contact ESA Communications Officer Liza Lester directly at gro.asenull@retsell.


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