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Meet Monica Turner

Dr. Monica G. Turner is the recipient of ESA’s Eminent Ecologist Award for 2020. After she received her PhD, Dr. Turner worked with Eugene Odum to examine changes in the Georgia landscape in one of the earliest U.S. landscape ecology studies. Afterwards, she went on to become a scientist at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where she began working on research on the special distribution of land use in the southern Appalachian Mountains. Later, she did extensive work in Yellowstone after the 1988 fire. Dr. Turner’s work at Yellowstone brought insight to dynamics of vegetation, specifically changing disturbance regimes, soil-microbe nutrient interactions, and vertebrate grazing. Over the past 20 years, her work at Yellowstone has given insight to the resilience of ecosystems after large disruptions.

When asked about this award, Dr. Turner said, “This is a career award from ESA, and I was stunned and deeply honored to receive it. In part, my research in ecosystem and landscape ecology led to this award. I’ve followed the questions that interested me throughout my career, often feeling that I always live on the steep part of the learning curve (scary at times, but never boring!) I have done research in spectacular national parks, coastal salt marshes, temperate forests, agricultural watersheds, and even cities. I am proud to have contributed to the development of landscape ecology, our growing understanding of natural disturbance dynamics, the structure and function of ecosystems, and how what we value can be sustained. I am also ever grateful to the wonderful colleagues and collaborators with whom I work. In part, my role in training early career scientists also led to this award. It is very rewarding to share my enthusiasm for science with my students, to help them learn how to ask and answer good ecological questions, and to watch them flourish as capable independent scientists. In part, my commitment to serving our profession also played a role. Each of us must contribute to our societies and institutions for all of us to thrive, and I have always tried to live up to that. I can’t imagine having any other career that is so challenging and fun!”

Dr. Turner joined ESA in 1982 and is a lifetime member. Throughout her time in the Society, she has been a part of the Long Term Studies Section and served on the Nominations Committee, the Awards Committee, and as ESA President. When asked about her favorite part of being an ESA member, she said, “My favorite parts of being a member of ESA are the people, the meetings, and the journals. I have been a member of ESA since my second year of graduate school, and my network of professional colleagues grew with my involvement in the society. The meetings have always provided the opportunities to hear new science, catch up with old friends, and meet new colleagues. The journals have provided sound feedback on my research and homes for many of my papers. I encourage all ecologists to join, renew, and contribute to our premiere professional organization!”

ESA’s awards and fellows programs honor great work and great people in ecology. Nominations are now open for 2021 honorees — learn more and nominate a colleague!