Ecological Society of America announces 2011 award recipients

Ecological Society of America announces 2011 award recipients

The Ecological Society of America (ESA) will present seven awards to distinguished ecologists at its 96th Annual Meeting from August 7-12, 2011 in Austin, Texas. The meeting, which has the theme “Earth Stewardship: Preserving and enhancing the earth’s life-support systems,” draws a critical combination of more than 3,500 scientists, policymakers and concerned citizens to discuss research on Earth’s complex interactions and to explore strategies for enhancing a community-based approach to global responsibility.

Eminent Ecologist Award: Thomas G. Whitham
Thomas G. Whitham of Northern Arizona University will receive this year’s Eminent Ecologist Award, presented to a senior ecologist in recognition of an outstanding body of ecological work or sustained ecological contributions of extraordinary merit. Whitham was awarded the ESA’s George Mercer Award in 1980 for his empirical studies of habitat selection and territoriality in gall aphids. He has since furthered research on the importance of individual variation: how individual genotypes in foundation species can influence the attributes of entire communities and ecosystems and the practical implications of the interface of ecology and genetics. Presently, his explanation of how genetic variation can manifest at higher levels of ecological organization is a particularly exciting area of research in evolutionary ecology. Beyond his over 170 peer-reviewed papers and book chapters, Whitham is also a renowned mentor to an entire generation of ecologists.

Distinguished Service Citation: Donald Strong
The Distinguished Service Citation is given to an ecologist for a long and distinguished service to ESA, to the larger scientific community or to the larger purpose of application of ecology in the public welfare. Donald Strong of the University of California, Davis began his work with ESA almost a decade ago as Editor-in-Chief of the Society’s flagship journal, Ecology. He has shepherded this journal through controversial changes and difficult times, while maintaining high quality and substantially increasing its efficiency for authors and reviewers. In his oversight of the editorial board, Strong has aimed for a wide breadth of ecological science amongst the papers published in Ecology. His commitment has shown through in the service to both the Ecological Society of America and more broadly the international discipline of ecology and environmental science.

Mercer Award: Tracy Langkilde
This year’s George Mercer Award is given to Tracy Langkilde, Pennsylvania State University, for her paper “Invasive fire ants alter behavior and morphology of native lizards,” published in Ecology in 2009. The Mercer Award is given for an outstanding recently-published ecological research paper by a young scientist. Langkilde’s work elegantly combines field and laboratory experiments with an analysis of museum specimens to evaluate how invasive fire ants drive rapid evolutionary change in native lizard populations. This work is unique, in addition to the combination of careful field work and experiments, for the use of historical data to understand evolutionary responses to novel ecological interactions. The results powerfully demonstrate how adaptation can favor the persistence of native taxa in invaded habitats, an important result for predicting the impact of non native species.

Cooper Award: Margaret Davis, Ruth Shaw and Julie Etterson
Margaret Davis, Ruth Shaw and Julie Etterson will receive this year’s William Skinner Cooper Award, given in honor of an outstanding contribution to the field of geobotany, physiographic ecology, plant succession or the distribution of plants along environmental gradients. Their paper, “Evolutionary responses to changing climate,” was published in Ecology in 2005. Davis has written countless papers, many of which are still required reading for graduate students in ecology. Her co-authors Ruth Shaw and Julie Etterson are leading population geneticists and have made their own fundamental contributions. In their 2005 paper, Davis, Shaw and Etterson present a synthesis of ecological and evolutionary processes in plant populations during periods of rapid climate change, demonstrating a remarkable ability to identify and clearly outline important questions that will likely define a new research field. 

Odum Education Award: John Moore
Through teaching, outreach and mentoring activities, recipients of the Eugene P. Odum Award have demonstrated their ability to relate basic ecological principles to human affairs. This year’s award goes to John Moore, Professor of Forest, Rangeland and Watershed Stewardship and Director of the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory at Colorado State University. Since the 1990s, Moore has been a national leader in developing ecology education programs based on innovative active learning exercises. These educational lessons are located in all types of easily accessible habitats, are available to K-12 teachers and students and undergraduate and graduate students, and emphasize outreach to minority and low-income populations. Moore’s integration of research and education encompasses soil foodweb dynamics, impact of climate change on ecosystem processes and the ways in which humans interact with ecosystem function through invasive species distribution, engages audiences of varied interests and helps them to become active environmental stewards.

Honorary Member Award: Marten Scheffer
The criteria for the Honorary Member Awards includes a portfolio of high quality ecological research, with a major impact on the discipline, participation in international research collaborations, an impact of science on society and excellence in teaching or mentoring. This year, Marten Sheffer of Wageningen University will receive honorary membership to ESA. Scheffer has been extensively published on an international scale and his work has led the development of the field of limnology. He has contributed ecological theory that has inspired diverse areas of study, especially alternative stable states. Scheffer has also made important contributions to  social-ecological systems. More recently, Scheffer has guided the establishment of the South American Institute for Resilience and Sustainability Studies (SARAS), an organization that combines the arts and sciences through a range of perspectives that contribute to sustainability studies.

Sustainability Science Award: Worm, B., Hilborn, R., Baum, J.K., Branch, T.A., Collie, J.S., Costello, C., Fogarty, M.J., Fulton, E.A., Hutchings, J.A., Jennings, S., Jensen, O.P., Lotze, H.K., Mace, P.M., McClanahan, T.R., Palumbi, S.R., Parma, A.M., Rikard, D., Rosenberg, A.A., Zeller, D. & Minto, C. 
These scientists will receive this year’s Sustainability Science Award for their paper “Rebuilding Global Fisheries,” published inScience in 2009. The study-resulting from collaboration between scientists who initially had conflicting opinions about future scenarios for the sustainability of global fisheries -integrates the data, methods and analyses of a diverse group to address controversies and form a consensual view regarding a long-standing issue in global food security. The authors address the dire situation of many fisheries worldwide, evidence for the plausibility of mutual economic-biodiversity benefits and the need to consider local socioeconomic and ecological contexts when evaluating management tools that have been successful at broader scales. This intensive collective effort exemplifies how scientists can work across disciplines and with various stakeholders to resolve issues in sustainability.

For more information on the awards sessions and the 2011 ESA Annual Meeting, visit or contact Katie Kline at gro.asenull@eitak.



The Ecological Society of America is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge. ESA is committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 10,000 member Society publishes five journals, convenes an annual scientific conference, and broadly shares ecological information through policy and media outreach and education initiatives. Visit the ESA website at

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