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University of Washington professor's lifetime efforts receive international recognition
Date:7/26/2010

A prize claimed by renowned conservationists such as David Attenborough and directors of some of the world's largest botanic gardens has been awarded to Estella Leopold, a University of Washington professor emeritus of botany, forest resources and quaternary research.

The International Cosmos Prize carries a cash award of 40 million yen, nearly $500,000, and goes to just one individual or team each year, according information from Japan's Expo '90 Foundation, sponsor of the prize.

Leopold, 83, has been teaching and conducting research for more than 60 years, 35 of them at the UW. She pioneered the use of fossilized pollen and spores in North America to understand how plants and ecosystems respond over eons to such things as climate change.

She is the daughter of Aldo Leopold, known for proposing the "land ethic" that individuals are responsible for the health of the land and author of "A Sand County Almanac." Estella Leopold "has dedicated herself to the preservation and stewardship of natural landscapes," the prize committee wrote. For example:

  • She marshaled 20 nonprofit groups in a six-year fight to gain national monument status for Colorado's Florissant fossil beds that contain 35-million-year-old remains of plants, fish, birds and some of the earliest known fossils of butterflies. The beds were on the brink of destruction by real estate developers when, with bulldozers on the site, Leopold and a small group of activists obtained a court injunction to stop development so there was time to seek protection through the U.S. Congress, the awards committee writes.

  • After Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980, creating huge swaths of land seemingly devoid of life, Leopold was among those urging Congress to halt Bureau of Land Management plans to plant areas with non-native grasses and instead leave the land alone. The result: the Forest Service's first national monument, a place where scientists had
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Contact: Sandra Hines
shines@uw.edu
206-543-2580
University of Washington
Source:Eurekalert  

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