Public Release: 

Academy awards medal to noted expert in disappearing amphibians

Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University

The Academy of Natural Sciences today named a Berkeley scientist who first called attention to the worldwide disappearance of amphibians to receive its prestigious award named for one of the first scientists to call attention to dinosaurs.

Dr. David Wake, professor of integrative biology and curator of herpetology at the University of California, Berkeley, will receive the Joseph Leidy Award at a free public lecture and ceremony at The Academy of Natural Sciences on Tuesday, Feb. 7.

Wake has studied amphibians for more than 40 years. Since the 1970s, Wake and other biologists have monitored their alarmingly steady decline in every part of the world but have been unable to pinpoint one single culprit. Habitat loss, pollution, over-harvesting and a recently discovered fungal disease can explain the disappearance of only about half the decline, according to the National Wildlife Federation.

"We selected Dr. Wake for the award in recognition of his ground-breaking work in conservation biology, with a particular focus on the worldwide disappearance of amphibians and for his many outstanding contributions to systematics and evolutionary biology," said Academy President and CEO Dr. D. James Baker.

Established in 1923 in honor of Dr. Joseph Leidy (1823-1891), anatomist, paleontologist and Academy president, the award consists of a bronze medal and $5,000. Leidy helped popularize dinosaurs when he described the first dinosaur discovered in America, Hadrosaurus foulkii, which became the first mounted dinosaur when it went on display at the Academy in 1868. Past recipients of the Leidy medal include ornithologist James Bond, biologist G. Evelyn Hutchinson and entomologist Edward O. Wilson.

Wake's appearance at the Academy on Feb. 7 coincides with the traveling exhibition on display in the museum, Frogs--A Chorus of Colors. The exhibit will be open specially that night for the lecture audience. Wake's talk entitled "Disappearing Amphibians" will run from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and will include refreshments. Reservations are not required but are suggested. To register, contact Roland Wall, 215-299-1106 or

The talk is presented by the Academy's Town Square program. Town Square is made possible, in part, by the Richard Lounsbery Foundation and the Environmental Associates of The Academy of Natural Sciences.

The Academy is located at 1900 Benjamin Franklin Parkway and is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and weekends until 5 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for children ages 3-12, students with college I.D. and military personnel, $8.25 for seniors, and free for children under 3.


The Academy of Natural Sciences, an international museum of natural history operating since 1812, undertakes research and public education that focuses on the environment and its diverse species. The mission of the Academy is to create the basis for a healthy and sustainable planet through exploration, research and education.

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