Public Release: 

OU professor recognized by AAAS as new fellow

University of Oklahoma

Michael Kaspari, a University of Oklahoma biology professor, has been named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science for innovative studies linking biogeochemistry to the geography of ecological communities. Kaspari has sought to understand why ecological communities -- the collection of plants, animals and microbes found in any one place -- vary from place to place across the planet.

"I am proud to join the AAAS in recognizing the accomplishments of Michael Kaspari. This recognition demonstrates the quality of faculty that we have at the University of Oklahoma. Professor Kaspari is an integral member of the OU academic community," said Kelly Damphousse, dean of the OU College of Arts and Sciences. "His research efforts have been important for understanding how and where animal ecosystems thrive. I congratulate him on this prestigious honor."

Kaspari, a Presidential and George Lynn Cross Research Professor in the Department of Biology, was awarded this honor for scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications. He will be recognized for his efforts on Saturday, Feb. 18, at the American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellows Forum during the 2017 Association's Annual Meeting in Boston, Massachusetts.

"The work I am most proud of explores how adding a little sodium, the main ingredient in table salt, can accelerate the activity and abundance of animals from prairies to rainforests. The reason for this is that animals need salt and most plants do not. This simple fact underlies a host of ecological phenomena, from the wanderings of bison herds to the way that termite damage tends to hug the salty coastal communities," said Kaspari.

Kaspari looked for the answer in the ways the Earth's temperatures govern the pace of life, how its rainfall sustains life and how 25 chemical elements from the periodic table are used to build the living things found on our planet. Each chemical element plays a role and each has its own geography. He has shown how phosphorous sparks the way microbes break down leaf litter in the soils of the tropics and how nitrogen is used to build the grasses and grasshoppers of the Oklahoma prairies.


This year's Fellows will be formally announced in the American Association for the Advancement of Science News & Notes section of the journal Science on Nov. 25, 2016. For more information, please contact Kaspari at or visit his website at

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