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Minnesota ecology professor wins international award for biodiversity and biofuels research

David Tilman, Regents Professor of Ecology at the University of Minnesota, has been named the 2008 recipient of the International Prize for Biology. Tilman will receive a medal, a $100,000 cash prize and a gift from Emperor Akihito of Japan in a ceremony in Tokyo on Dec. 8. Following the ceremony, he will present the keynote address at a scientific symposium.

The award, which is one of the most prestigious honors a scientist can receive, is given to one individual in a different field of biology each year. The last time it was given for ecology was in 1993, when Edward Wilson, the renowned Harvard evolutionary biologist, was the recipient. Other past recipients include scientists from California Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Oxford, Stanford, Duke and other leading research universities around the world.

Tilman was selected for research proving that biodiversity makes ecosystems more productive and resistant to drought, disease and pests. His seminal findings were published in Science and Nature during the 1990s. More recently, he has applied his discoveries to renewable energy, showing that biofuel created from diverse prairie grasses is more efficient and better for the environment than fuel made from food crops such as corn and soybeans. All of his research was carried out at Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve, which is operated by the College of Biological Sciences, where Tilman is a faculty member. He is director of Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve.

"I am deeply honored by this award, and want to thank everyone with whom I have been privileged to collaborate during my 32 years at the university," said Tilman. "The world is facing immense environmental challenges. There is no scientific goal more important than pursing solutions to these problems. We have an ethical obligation to preserve the Earth's ecosystems for future generations."

"This is one of the most prestigious scientific prizes in the world," said Bob Elde, dean of the College of Biological Sciences. "And no one deserves it more that Dave Tilman. His stature as a scientist honors the university, the college, his colleagues and our students. We are very fortunate that he has chosen Cedar Creek as his laboratory."

The International Prize in Biology was created in 1985 to commemorate the 60-year reign of Emperor Showa of Japan and his longtime interest in and support for the biological sciences. The Japan Society for the Promotion of Science selects recipients. This year, the society distributed nearly 2,000 nomination forms to universities worldwide, and based their selection on nominations from institutions in 17 countries. Criteria included originality, impact on ecology, and contribution to biology in general.

Tilman was named the most cited environmental scientist for 1997-2007 by Essential Science Indicators in June.


Contact: Patty Mattern
University of Minnesota

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