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AIBS honors outstanding contributions to the biological sciences

April 30, 2008

Contact: Holly Menninger

202-628-1500 x 229

WASHINGTON, DC — Each year the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) awards eminent individuals or groups for outstanding contributions to the biological sciences. The AIBS Board of Directors and Awards Committee are pleased to announce the following award winners for 2008:

  • Distinguished Scientist Award: Terry L. Yates, University of New Mexico (posthumous)
  • Outstanding Service Award: David E. Blockstein, National Council for Science and the Environment
  • Education Award: Eric Klopfer, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • President's Citation Award: Ira Flatow, NPR's Talk of the Nation: Science Friday
  • Past-President's Award: Douglas J. Futuyma, State University of New York at Stony Brook
  • Media Award: Michelle Nijhuis, High Country News

The awards will be presented on May 12 at the AIBS Annual Meeting, "Climate, Environment, and Infectious Diseases," during a ceremony to be held at the Westin Arlington Gateway in Arlington, Virginia.

AIBS President Rita Colwell and Executive Director Richard O'Grady said in a joint statement: "We are pleased to honor these dedicated and talented individuals. From a variety of backgrounds, they have all made significant positive contributions to the field of biology."

Below are brief descriptions of the award winners:

Terry L. Yates will posthumously receive the Distinguished Scientist Award, presented to individuals who have made significant scientific contributions to the biological sciences. At the time of his death in December 2007, Yates was vice president for research and economic development at the University of New Mexico (UNM), as well as curator of genomic resources for UNM's Museum of Southwestern Biology. He served as president of the Natural Science Collections Alliance from 2004-2007 where he worked tirelessly on the national stage to increase awareness of the vitally important research in biological diversity, evolution, and ecology that is conducted at our nation's natural science collections and museums. Yates was best known for his groundbreaking research that isolated the source of the deadly hantavirus, the serious respiratory disease that began afflicting many in the American Southwest in 1993. He was a member of the Board of Life Sciences of the National Academy of Sciences and an honorary member of the Society of Mammalogists, the highest honor bestowed by the organization. Yates' wife, Nancy, will accept the award on his behalf.

David E. Blockstein will receive the Outstanding Service Award, presented in recognition of an individual’s (or organization’s) noteworthy service to the biological sciences. Blockstein is currently a senior scientist with the National Council for Science and the Environment, which he joined in 1990 as founding executive director. He is also vice-president of the US Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development as well as executive secretary to the Council of Environmental Deans and Directors. His science policy career began in 1987 with a Congressional Science Fellowship sponsored by the American Institute of Biological Sciences and the American Society of Zoology. Blockstein’s writing, mentoring, and organizational talents have bolstered environmental science policy, improving the linkage between science and decisionmaking on environmental issues, and increased the representation of minorities in the sciences. Blockstein is founding chair of the Ornithological Council, an association that provides scientific information about birds to policymakers, and is involved in ongoing efforts to conserve the critically endangered Grenada Dove and the Grenada Hook-billed Kite.

Eric Klopfer will receive the Education Award, presented to an individual (or group) who has made significant contributions to education in the biological sciences, at any level of formal or informal education. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Klopfer is the Scheller Career Development Professor of Science Education and Educational Technology and director of the Scheller Teacher Education Program (STEP). STEP prepares MIT undergraduates to become math and science teachers, and under Klopfer's leadership, the program has developed an extensive network of K-12 teachers to enhance its efforts. His innovative research focuses on the development and use of computer games and simulations for building understanding of science and complex systems. He cofounded Education Arcade, a group that is advancing the use of games as learning tools in the classroom. In recognition of his ideas and energy dedicated to transforming science education, Klopfer was elected to the Santa Fe Institute's Science Board, the recognized authority in New Mexico on K-12 education.

Ira Flatow will receive the President's Citation Award, which recognizes meritorious accomplishments by an individual (or group) in the biological sciences. Flatow is a veteran science correspondent and award-winning TV journalist. For more than 35 years, he has been reporting and hosting lively, informative discussion on science, technology, health, space, and the environment. Flatow currently hosts National Public Radio's Talk of the Nation: Science Friday. As a former NPR science correspondent, Flatow reported from Cape Canaveral, Three Mile Island, and the South Pole. His TV credits include six years as host and writer for the PBS Emmy-award-winning Newton's Apple, as well as science reporter for CBS This Morning and CNBC. He has talked science on Today, Charlie Rose, and Oprah. He is the author of several books, most recently Present at the Future: From Evolution to Nanotechnology, Candid and Controversial Conversations on Science and Nature.

Douglas J. Futuyma will receive the Past-President's Award, which recognizes the services of the immediate past-president of AIBS. Futuyma is a distinguished professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the State University of New York Stony Brook where his research interests focus primarily on speciation and the evolution of ecological interactions among species. Prior to his presidency of AIBS, Futuyma served as president of the Society for the Study of Evolution and the American Society of Naturalists. He was a Guggenheim and a Fulbright Fellow, and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Futuyma is an editor of Evolution and the Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution and Systematics, as well as the author of two successful textbooks, Evolutionary Biology and Evolution. His leadership and service to AIBS go back more than a decade, with numerous board and committee appointments to cross-disciplinary projects, including the BioOne online journals initiative, the National Ecological Observatory Network, the Coalition on the Public Understanding of Science, and the Year of Science 2009.

Michelle Nijhuis will receive the Media Award for her articles "Beetle Warfare" and "Bonfire of the Superweeds," which were part of a series on western invasions that ran in High Country News on August 20 and November 26, 2007. She is a contributing editor of High Country News. Her reporting on science and the environment has also appeared in Smithsonian, National Geographic, Audubon, and the anthology, Best American Science Writing. Nijhuis has won several national honors for her science writing including a AAAS Science Journalism Award.

For more information on the AIBS annual awards, see www.aibs.org/about-aibs/awards.html.
For more information on the 2008 awards ceremony, see www.aibs.org/annual-meeting/annual_meeting_2008.html

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