News Release

ESA announces recipients of 2023 Awards

Grant and Award Announcement

Ecological Society of America

The Ecological Society of America is pleased to announce the winners of its 2023 awards, which recognize outstanding contributions to ecology in new discoveries, teaching, sustainability, diversity and lifelong commitment to the profession.

These awards are designed to not only reward past achievements, but also to inspire a broad audience of scientists, educators and students, opening the door to new insights and collaborations that will further the impact of ecological research.

“I commend this year’s award recipients for their research and for the outstanding contributions they’ve made to the scientific community,” said ESA President Sharon Collinge. “Each of these individuals has made unique strides forward in their respective areas of study – and they all share a commitment to sharing their expertise.”

ESA will present the 2023 awards during a ceremony at the Society’s upcoming Annual Meeting, which will take place in Portland, Oregon, from Sunday, August 6, through Friday, August 11.

Learn more about ESA awards.


Eminent Ecologist Award


Gretchen Daily, Bing Professor of Environmental Science Stanford University, Department of Biology; Faculty Director, Stanford Center for Conservation Biology; Faculty Director, Natural Capital Project; Senior Fellow, Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment

The Eminent Ecologist Award honors a senior ecologist for an outstanding body of ecological work or sustained ecological contributions of extraordinary merit. This year’s Eminent Ecologist Award goes to renowned ecologist Gretchen Daily.

Throughout her career, Daily has made internationally recognized contributions to the study of human–environment interactions and has used her findings to show policymakers that ecosystem health is a necessary condition for human wellbeing. She has devoted her career to developing a conservation model that brings opportunity, security and wellbeing to the greatest number of people.

She is best known for her work in the natural capital movement. Daily pioneered the approach of appraising not just an ecosystem’s products – such as food, lumber, or minerals – but also measuring its services in order to grasp the value of the assets that nature offers to human society. By shifting focus from the tangible resources that can be extracted from an ecosystem, and looking instead at the way that ecosystems actually function, this approach helps decision makers appreciate the importance of conserving wetlands that purify water, grasslands that support pollinators, and soils that cycle nutrients.

Daily is the co-founder of Stanford’s Natural Capital Project, a groundbreaking partnership that is developing a systematic approach – using actionable, science-based tools – to valuing nature’s vital benefits and to mainstream the approach into policy, finance, and practice around the world. The project’s signature open-source software is being used in 185 countries to quantify the value of natural assets and estimate the costs of losing those assets. These tools have guided transformative investments in watershed restoration that have secured water for over 40 Latin American cities, and the approach is expanding into Africa, Asia and the United States.

Together with colleagues, Daily worked with the United Nations to adopt a system of ecosystem accounting that includes the use of Gross Ecosystem Product (GEP) as an official metric of ecological performance, to reveal the values of nature to society, to guide investments in ecosystem stewardship and to track progress.  In March 2021, the UN Statistical Commission adopted the framework as a tool for global use.


Distinguished Service Citation


Paul L. Ringold, Supervisory Biologist, Center for Public Health and Environmental Assessment, Pacific Ecological Systems Division, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Research and Development

Paul L. Ringold is the recipient of the 2023 ESA Distinguished Service Citation, which recognizes long and distinguished volunteer service to ESA, the scientific community and the larger purpose of ecology in the public welfare. Ringold’s highly productive history working with federal agencies and nonprofit teams reflects his commitment to cultivating strong linkages between science, policy and society.

Spanning from the 1990s through the present, Paul Ringold’s career has focused on research, service and leadership at the science–policy interface. He has served on a variety of steering committees and working groups on environmental management, monitoring and assessment.

Ringold has provided 25 years of valuable service to the ESA, including roles with the Steering Committee of the Sustainable Biosphere Initiative, the Centennial Committee, the Science Committee, the Applied Ecology Section, the Public Affairs Committee and the Program Committee for ESA’s 2005 joint Annual Meeting with the International Congress of Ecology in Montreal, Canada. 

His research program has enhanced communication between ecologists, economists and policymakers, supporting scientifically informed management of natural resources. Ringold is an involved and supportive ESA member who has consistently given back to the ecological community over the past three decades, and is committed to disseminating ecological information grounded in rigorous science for the public benefit.


Eugene P. Odum Award for Excellence in Ecology Education


Jorge Ramos, Executive Director, Jasper Ridge Biological University, Stanford University

Odum Award recipients demonstrate their ability to relate basic ecological principles to human affairs through teaching, outreach and mentoring activities. This year’s Odum Award for Excellence in Ecology Education is presented to Jorge Ramos, instructor in the Department of Biology at Stanford University and executive director of the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve. Ramos manages the preserve’s day-to-day operations, research grants and supervises a committed team of scientists, educators, technology specialists and operations personnel to accomplish the overall mission of understanding the Earth’s ecosystems through research, education and protection of natural resources. Prior to taking the role of executive director, Ramos served as the preserve’s associate director for environmental education and was the co-instructor of the keystone course “Ecology and Natural History of Jasper Ridge,” which has trained students and community members to become docents of the preserve since 1975.

Ramos is an engaging educator with a passionate dedication to science outreach. Before working at Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve, Ramos worked at Conservation International as a science advisor and manager for policymakers, scientists and local communities worldwide to develop community conservation carbon projects for the organization’s Blue Carbon Initiative. He has served in leadership and outreach roles for many nonprofit organizations, educational programs and community groups, including Latino Outdoors, Save the Redwoods League, the National Science Foundation’s GK-12 Sustainability Schools Program, the American Geophysical Union’s Mentoring365 program, Organization of Biological Field Studies and the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science.

He has also advanced educational initiatives and provided supportive mentorship within ESA. He has been an inspiring mentor in the SEEDS program for more than 16 years, including as a national advisory board member; past chair of the ESA Student Section and Environmental Justice sections; and was a steering committee member for EcologyPlus, an ESA pilot program supporting the career pathways for diverse college students and early career scientists.

Ramos is an active leader and communicator within the profession. Working at the intersection of ecology and education has allowed Ramos to uniquely advance the field of ecology through hands-on research and educational experiences with a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion.


Robert H. Whittaker Distinguished Ecologist Award


Volker Grimm, Professor, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, Department of Ecological Modelling

The Whittaker Distinguished Ecologist award recognizes an ecologist with an earned doctorate and an outstanding record of contributions in ecology who is not a U.S. citizen and who resides outside the United States. The 2023 recipient of this award is biologist and physicist Volker Grimm, whose research has transformed our understanding of fundamental ecological principles and has made ecological modeling more coherent and efficient.

Grimm has worked for more than 30 years as a theoretical ecologist and ecological modeler and has made seminal contributions to agent-based and individual-based modeling. He has been involved in modeling a wide range of plant and animal populations and communities. Using mostly individual/agent based models, he links behavior, including movement, to population and community dynamics. He is also interested in ecological concepts such as stability and resilience, and in theory development. His insights have clarified how properties of individual organisms produce complicated system dynamics. Applied ecologists and natural resource managers have leveraged these contributions to more accurately and efficiently model population dynamics and confidently assess species extinction risk.

As the co-author of both the first monograph and the first textbook on individual-based modeling, Grimm is committed to making these tools available to the ecological community. He is involved in projects that use modeling to develop vitality indicators for honeybees and facilitate evidence-based solutions for biodiversity protection and restoration.

Grimm is not only developing ecological models that support environmental decision making, he is also a dedicated mentor, ushering in a new generation of ecologists who are equipped to use innovative tools to describe and interpret the inner workings of ecosystems at a high degree of complexity.


Commitment to Human Diversity in Ecology Award


Wilnelia Recart González, Postdoctoral Fellow, University of San Diego, Department of Biology

The Commitment to Human Diversity in Ecology Award recognizes long-standing contributions of an individual toward increasing the diversity of future ecologists through mentoring, teaching or outreach.

Wilnelia Recart González is the recipient of this year’s Commitment to Human Diversity in Ecology Award in recognition of her teaching excellence, educational leadership and support of diverse student involvement in ecology and STEM fields.

Recart is a pollination ecologist who, over the past 10 years, has worked to center diverse voices in ecology and develop initiatives for underrepresented students in ecology to explore research, leadership opportunities, and their career interests. At ESA, she has served as the chair and vice-chair of the Inclusive Ecology Section, is an advisory board member for the ESA SEEDS program, and organizes Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice (DEIJ) initiatives and workshops at the ESA Annual Meetings. She has organized ESA Annual Meeting special sessions on topics such as promoting diverse leadership, careers in ecology, inclusive communication and highlighting ESA Chapters and Sections focused on DEIJ.

Her work goes beyond ESA and into other scientific organizations including workshops and events held for the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), both at local and national levels. At the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, Recart founded the Diversity and Inclusion Committee in 2017, where she worked with administrators and the Board of Trustees to transform policies and practices surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion practices at the station.

At her academic institutions, Recart has focused on providing mentoring and learning experiences for undergraduate students to pursue research via research experiences and workshops on summer research, to identify STEM careers via career panels and to generate community via crafting and discussion events. She has recently led a Quantitative Undergraduate Biology Education and Synthesis (QUBES) Faculty Mentoring Network program where she, along with other teaching instructors, generated teaching modules to support undergraduate students in identifying their research interests and guiding them toward applying to summer research programs.

Recart has reached over 500 primary and middle school students in California and Puerto Rico. She has collaborated with middle school teachers and facilitated programs such as the Expanding your Horizons program and BE WiSE (Better Education for Women in Science and Engineering), whose goal is to bring STEM experiences to middle school girls. She has collaborated with the Ocean Discovery Institute, which focuses on inspiring young people traditionally excluded from science to actively engage with science and scientists. In her outreach efforts, she has placed a strong emphasis on providing bilingual experiences in Spanish and English. As an assistant professor at the University of San Diego, she will continue her DEIJ initiatives and incorporate them into her pollination ecology research.


George Mercer Award


David J. Civitello, Teckla Angelo, Karena H. Nguyen, Rachel B. Hartman, Naima C. Starkloff, Moses Paul Mahalila, Jenitha Augustine Charles, Andres Felipe Manrique, Bryan K. Delius, L.M. Bradley, Roger M. Nisbet, Safari M. Kinung’hi and Jason R. Rohr

An international team that includes biologists and medical researchers from the United States and Tanzania are the recipients of the 2023 ESA George Mercer Award for a study that used theoretical modeling, mesocosm experiments and field surveys to show that the transmission potential of schistosomiasis, a neglected tropical disease, can be driven by resource competition among snail intermediate hosts.

The George Mercer Award was established in 1948 and is awarded annually for an outstanding ecological research paper published within the past two years by a younger researcher (the lead author of the paper must be 40 years of age or younger at the time of publication).

Transmission potential of human schistosomes can be driven by resource competition among snail intermediate hosts,” by corresponding author David Civitello and 12 other researchers, was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on February 4, 2022.

Schistosomiasis is a debilitating parasitic disease that is highly prevalent in tropical and sub-tropical areas worldwide. Schistosomes are flatworms that are transmitted to humans by freshwater snails that live in infected water sources. The collaboration, led by scientists from Emory University and Tanzania’s National Institute for Medical Research Mwanza Center, conducted field research on schistosomiasis in the Mwanza region of Tanzania, where the disease is endemic, and integrated their field observations with an individual-based bioenergetics model of snail and schistosome dynamics and with experiments in artificial water bodies.

This study is the first to demonstrate how the size of a freshwater snail population affects its parasitic infection rate. These findings have direct relevance for disease control, because they show that reducing snail abundance can be an ineffective – or even counterproductive – control measure.

The impacts of the study also advance a more general understanding of the dynamics of disease ecology, revealing that intraspecific exploitative competition for resources is a key driver of disease transmission dynamics.


Sustainability Science Award


Thomas Elmqvist, Erik Andersson, Niki Frantzeskaki, Timon McPhearson, Per Olsson, Owen Gaffney, Kazuhiko Takeuchi and Carl Folke

ESA presents the 2023 Sustainability Science Award to the authors of “Sustainability and resilience for transformation in the urban century,” published in 2019 in Nature Sustainability.

The Sustainability Science Award recognizes the authors of the scholarly work that makes the greatest contribution to the emerging science of ecosystem and regional sustainability through the integration of ecological and social sciences.

The paper, published by an interdisciplinary, globally distributed team, provides a unified framework of urban sustainability. It defines sustainability, resilience and transformation in a way that transcends the vague definitions often used in policy, governance and academic literature. When faced with natural and anthropogenic disasters, cities tend to suffer greater losses than rural areas due to the concentration of people, buildings, services and assets. Clear strategies to build well-being and equity in cities are therefore key to improving lives and livelihoods everywhere.

In the three years since its publication, the paper has been widely cited in a variety of disciplines and has been referenced in policy documents for Europe’s National Academies of Sciences.

By defining and distinguishing sustainability and resilience – concepts that are sometimes used interchangeably – the authors offer a clearer picture of how cities can effectively address a broad range of challenges. 


Forrest Shreve Research Award


Sadie Roth, Ph.D. student, Texas Tech University, Department of Natural Resources Management

Forrest Shreve was an internationally known American botanist devoted to the study of the distribution of vegetation as determined by soil and climate conditions, with a focus on desert vegetation. The Forrest Shreve Research Fund award supplies $1,000-2,000 to support ecological research by graduate or undergraduate student members of ESA in the hot deserts of North America (Sonora, Mohave, Chihuahua, and Vizcaino).

Sadie Roth was selected to receive this year’s Forrest Shreve Student Research Fund for her dissertation work uncovering the metapopulation dynamics of red-spotted toads in the Sonoran Desert.

Her work uses population genetics to understand baseline patterns and the potential impact of human-constructed catchments on toad population structure and migration. Her research simultaneously tests for ecological trade-offs between important factors including hydroperiod, site connectivity and site quality, and will quantify the role and influence of human-constructed water catchments in shaping desert wildlife populations and their potential persistence and migration.


2022 Annual Meeting Student Awards


Murray F. Buell Award for Excellence in Ecology


Sarah E. Rothman, Ph.D. candidate, University of Maryland, Department of Environmental Science and Technology

This year’s Murray F. Buell Award for Excellence in Ecology, which is awarded to a student each year for an outstanding oral paper presented at the ESA Annual Meeting, goes to Sarah E. Rothman for her presentation at the 2022 ESA Annual Meeting, titled “Differences in plant community composition along socioeconomic gradients in Baltimore, MD and Washington, DC: Implications for Aedes albopictus and Culex pipiens mosquitoes.”

Murray F. Buell had a long and distinguished record of service and accomplishment in the Ecological Society of America, and he ascribed great importance to the participation of students in meetings and to excellence in the presentation of papers.

Rothman surveyed the composition and abundance of standing vegetation around potential mosquito habitat along income and abandonment gradients in Baltimore, MD and Washington, DC. Her two study mosquito species – Aedes albopictus and Culex pipiens – are highly abundant in the eastern United States and can transmit viruses such as chikungunya, Zika, and West Nile.

Previous research has shown that adult mosquitoes are larger, more abundant and have higher infection rates in lower-income neighborhoods, exposing residents to a disproportionate and unjust risk of mosquito-borne disease.

Rothman and her colleagues found that the canopy species that appeared most frequently in low-income neighborhoods were largely non-native, while canopies in high-income neighborhoods more frequently contained native species, and that these differences may contribute to variation in mosquito community characteristics and composition across the income gradient.


Lucy Braun Award for Excellence in Ecology


Shannon M. Collins, M.S. Student and Graduate Research Assistant, University of North Texas, Department of Biological Sciences     

Lucy Braun, an eminent plant ecologist and one of the charter members of the Society, studied and mapped the deciduous forest regions of eastern North America and described them in her classic book, The Deciduous Forests of Eastern North America.

To honor her, the E. Lucy Braun Award for Excellence in Ecology is given to a student for an outstanding poster presentation at the ESA Annual Meeting. Papers and posters are judged on the significance of ideas, creativity, quality of methodology, validity of conclusions drawn from results and clarity of presentation.

Shannon M. Collins is the recipient of the 2022 E. Lucy Braun Award for her poster presentation at the 2022 ESA Annual Meeting, entitled, “Bottom-up impacts of rotational grazing disturbance on ground-nesting bee assemblages: do they dig it?”

Collins’ work addresses how livestock grazing history influences ground-nesting bee communities’ access to nesting sites and food resources.

Bee soil nesting habitat has historically been understudied despite its importance for larval survival. Her results show that longer histories of rotational grazing (preceded by continuous grazing) were associated with an increase in vegetative groundcover. However, this impact was unimportant for ground-nesting bee abundance. Instead, soil sand content, which was unaffected by grazing history, was the only significant soil habitat measure driving ground-nesting bee abundance.

Her preliminary results suggest that rotational livestock grazing may be compatible with grassland bee conservation, and highlight the need for determining the mechanisms through which grazing impacts pollinators with different foraging and nesting needs.



Learn more about the 2023 of the Ecological Society of America, August 6-11, on the meeting website. ESA invites press and institutional public information officers to attend for free. To register, please contact ESA Public Information Manager Heidi Swanson (gro.ase@idieh).


The Ecological Society of America, founded in 1915, is the worlds largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge, committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 9,000 member Society publishes five journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society’s Annual Meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in ecological science. Visit the ESA website at

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