Strasbourg, 17 November 2010 - Professor Ilkka Hanski of the University of Helsinki in Finland is awarded the European Latsis Prize for his contributions to research concerning biodiversity in general and metapopulation biology in particular.
The European Latsis Prize is valued at 100,000 Swiss francs (€74,000). The prize is funded by the Geneva-based Latsis Foundation and awarded by the European Science Foundation to an individual or a research group who, in the opinion of their peers, has made the greatest contribution to a particular field of European research. The European Latsis Prize 2010 will be awarded during the Annual Assembly of the European Science Foundation.
Ilkka Hanski is an internationally-acclaimed pioneer in ecology who has changed the way of thinking in his field. Metapopulation biology - the study of species living in networks of fragmented habitats - has been his most pressing concern for more than 20 years. The lessons from his research have shed light on the mechanisms that maintain biodiversity and have given insight to its conservation. He is best known for his work on the Glanville fritillary butterfly on the Åland Islands in southern Finland, which has become an important model system in population biology. The latest step is to try to identify the genetic basis of traits that underpin survival in fragmented habitats.
"We have done a lot of work on the Glanville fritillary, not only to understand the biology of this particular species, but because it has several characteristics which make it a good model system to study more general questions," says Professor Hanski. "For example, we have shed light on the processes involved in extinction at the landscape level and we now have a better understanding of the situations that allow species to survive in a fragmented environment. Metapopulation models tell us the extinction threshold - the critical level of habitat fragmentation for a species to persist long-term."
The criteria used in the selection procedure are scientific excellence, societal impact, and contribution to European progress. The nominations were evaluated by a jury of eminent scientists in the field.
"The expert jury emphasised the development of his innovative ground-breaking theories as having had a major impact on the emergence of metapopulation biology as an important field of research," said Professor Marja Makarow, European Science Foundation Chief Executive. "His work has been saluted far beyond Finland. Metapopulation research can answer vital questions about the practical management of the landscape for conservation. This has become particularly important as we confront landscapes that are increasingly fragmented and try to reconcile the needs of humans and nature."
Previous winners of the European Latsis Prize are:
2009 "The Human Brain - The Human Mind" Chris and Uta Frith, UK/Denmark
2008 "Astrophysics", Simon White, Germany/United Kingdom
2007 "Medical Imaging", Willi Kalender, Germany
2006 "Immigration and Social Cohesion in Modern Societies", Rainer Bauböck, Austria
2005 "Nano-Engineering", Donal Bradley, United Kingdom
2004 "Bioinformatics", Amos Bairoch, Switzerland
2003 "Archaeology", Colin Renfrew, United Kingdom
2002 "Cognitive Sciences", Annette Karmiloff-Smith, United Kingdom
2001 "Climate Research", André Berger, Belgium
2000 "Molecular Structure", Kenneth Holmes, Germany/United Kingdom
1999 "Research and/or Innovation in Education", Jürgen Baumert, German
For more information about the Latsis Prize please see www.esf.org/activities/latsis