The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) recognized excellence in science and science education during an awards ceremony and lecture at the National Academies’ Keck Center in Washington, DC, on 18 May 2010. Each year, AIBS recognizes scientists, educators, and organizations for their leadership and contributions to science and education. Award categories are: Distinguished Scientist, Outstanding Service, Education, and the President’s Citation. Nominations for the various AIBS awards are reviewed and approved by the AIBS Awards Committee and Board of Directors.
In addition to the presentation of the annual AIBS awards, the program included a lecture by Dr. Michael Ruse, Professor of Philosophy at Florida State University. “Dr. Ruse is recognized as a leading contributor to the intellectual underpinnings of evolutionary biology and the history and philosophy of biology. His talk, ‘Is Darwinism Past Its Sell-By Date?’ captivated the audience and was quite thought provoking,” said AIBS Executive Director Dr. Richard O’Grady.
The Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network received the 2010 AIBS Distinguished Scientist Award, which is presented annually for significant scientific contributions to the biological sciences. The LTER program concentrates on ecological processes that play out at time scales spanning decades to centuries. Long-term data sets from LTER provide a context to evaluate the nature and pace of ecological change, to interpret its effects, and to forecast the range of future biological responses to change. Instituted in 1980 by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the program has grown from six sites to 26 sites. As the program has matured, it has shifted focus from individual site research to a broader synthetic view aimed at identifying general ecological principles that apply to many ecosystems at many different scales.
Accepting the Distinguished Scientist Award on behalf of the LTER Network was Dr. G. Philip Robertson, Professor of Ecosystem Science in the Department of Crop and Soil Science at Michigan State University and Chairman of the LTER Network. Robertson is also the Principal Investigator for the Kellogg Biological Station LTER site in Michigan.
Duke University Professor of Biology Dr. Kathleen K. Smith received the AIBS Outstanding Service Award in recognition of her leadership of the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent). Smith is a former Director of NESCent. The Center is a collaborative effort of Duke University, North Carolina State University, and The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Founded in 2004 with a grant from the National Science Foundation, NESCent has established itself as an international Center for collaborative, cross-disciplinary research in evolution. NESCent plays an active role in developing cyberinfrastructure for the scientific community, with a focus on open source software, database development, and analytical tools in evolutionary biology. The Center also works to improve evolution education, expand opportunities for underrepresented groups, and communicate research to the general public.
NESCent is a leader in the field of synthetic research. Synthetic research in evolutionary science takes many forms but includes integrating novel datasets and models to address important problems within a discipline, developing new analytical approaches and tools, and combining methods and perspectives from multiple disciplines to answer and create new scientific questions.
The 2010 AIBS Education Award was presented to Dr. Jo Handelsman of Yale University. Handelsman is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor in the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology. The Education Award is presented annually to individuals or groups who have made significant contributions to education in the biological sciences at any level of formal or informal education. Handelsman is nationally recognized for her efforts to improve science education and increase the participation of women and other underrepresented groups in science at the university level.
Prior to joining Yale earlier this year, Handelsman spent 25 years on the faculty of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where she served as Director of the Wisconsin Program for Scientific Teaching. This program works to enhance undergraduate biology education by training a new generation of scientific teachers. Handelsman is a co-chair of the National Academies’ Summer Institute program, which works with university faculty to help them review their teaching practices and develop successful new teaching strategies. She co-founded the Women in Science and Engineering Leadership Institute at the University of Wisconsin, which helps to enhance the participation of women in science. Her leadership in this effort led to an appointment as the first President of the Rosalind Franklin Society and to service on the National Academies’ panel that wrote the 2006 report, “Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering.”
The 2010 AIBS President’s Citation was given to Dr. Mark A. McPeek, the David T. McLaughlin Distinguished Professor of Biological Sciences at Dartmouth College. The President’s Citation recognizes meritorious accomplishments by an individual or group in the biological sciences. McPeek’s research integrates empirical and theoretical studies of the ecological processes that structure biological communities and how some ecological processes have shaped the adaptation and diversification of the organisms that constitute these communities.
“Mark epitomizes the well-rounded biologist. His work on adaptation and ecology in damselflies integrates work in community ecology, population biology, molecular phylogenetics, biochemistry and physiology, behavioral ecology, and mathematical theory. From developing methods for comparative analyses to performing demanding field experiments, Mark has integrated discoveries in different areas to reconstruct one of the most compelling of our modern case studies of adaptation in the whole organism,” said AIBS President Dr. Joseph Travis.
For more information about the 2010 AIBS award recipients, please visit http://www.aibs.org/aibsrecognizes2010.html.
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