News Release 

Biodiversity researcher Patrick Weigelt is the 2020 winner of the Early Career Award

Leopoldina

Award Announcement

Dr. Patrick Weigelt, a young researcher in the field of biodiversity, macroecology, and biogeography at the University of Göttingen, will receive the Leopoldina Early Career Award 2020 presented by the Commerzbank Foundation. The prize is endowed with €30,000. The German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina honors Weigelt for developing biodiversity databases and for his research on plant biodiversity. He is investigating plant species on islands and how humans contribute to their spread outside their areas of origin. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the official award ceremony is scheduled for September 2021 on the occasion of the Leopoldina's Annual Assembly themed "Biodiversity and the Future of Variety".

As a biodiversity researcher and biogeographer, Weigelt investigates plant species diversity on islands and analyzes the changes over time on a regional and global level. In his studies, he researches how island characteristics such as climate, size, isolation, geology, and sea level fluctuations influence plant diversity and species composition. Weigelt's further research concerns humans' influence on the distribution of plant species outside their areas of origin, for example, through man-made climate change. He combines ecological and biogeographical research with the development of new methods of data processing. "His work has given a decisive impetus to biodiversity research and, as one of the world's leading scientists in the development of biodiversity databases, Weigelt is making an important contribution to the research of possible solutions to the global biodiversity crisis," reads the jury's laudation.

During his doctorate, Weigelt devoted himself to developing the "GIFT database" (Global Inventory of Floras and Traits), which comprises information on more than 300,000 plant species. It contains data on regional species composition and functional species characteristics as well as on geographical, climatic, and socio-economic conditions on-site. This database is an important tool for improving research on the distribution, development and conservation of plant diversity. Together with an international team, Weigelt also developed the first worldwide database ("Global Naturalized Alien Flora", GloNAF) that contains information on the global distribution and origin of alien plant species.

Weigelt, born in 1983, studied biological diversity and ecology at the Georg-August-University of Göttingen, where he received his PhD in 2013. Subsequently, he worked for one and a half years as a postdoctoral researcher at the Chair of Systemic Conservation Biology. Since 2015 he is a senior scientist in the Department of Biodiversity, Macroecology and Biogeography at Göttingen's Georg-August-University.

The Leopoldina Early Career Award of the Commerzbank Foundation is awarded every other year since 2010 and is presented at the Leopoldina Annual Assembly. It honors scientists who have made outstanding contributions to the respective thematic focus of the Leopoldina Annual Assembly. Scientific works up to ten years after receiving a doctoral degree are considered "early career" achievements. The award is endowed with €30,000 provided by the Commerzbank Foundation.

Due to the precautions taken to curb the coronavirus pandemic, the Early Career Award 2020 is scheduled to be presented in 2021 at the Annual Assembly of the Leopoldina on September 24 and 25, 2021, in Halle (Saale). The event is dedicated to the topic "Biodiversity and the Future of Variety".

A photo of Patrick Weigelt can be found in the press area on the Leopoldina website: http://www.leopoldina.org/en/press/media-library/

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About the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina

As the German National Academy of Sciences, the Leopoldina provides independent science-based policy advice on matters relevant to society. To this end, the Academy develops interdisciplinary statements based on scientific findings. In these publications, options for action are outlined; making decisions, however, is the responsibility of democratically legitimized politicians. The experts who prepare the statements work in a voluntary and unbiased manner. The Leopoldina represents the German scientific community in the international academy dialogue. This includes advising the annual summits of Heads of State and Government of the G7 and G20 countries. With 1,600 members from more than 30 countries, the Leopoldina combines expertise from almost all research areas. Founded in 1652, it was appointed the National Academy of Sciences of Germany in 2008. The Leopoldina is committed to the common good.

About the Commerzbank Foundation

The Commerzbank Foundation celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2020. Since 1970, it initiates and supports projects in the fields of science, culture, and social affairs. The Frankfurt-based corporate foundation aims to assume responsibility towards fellow human beings and make sustainable contributions to a viable society. As an actively promoting institution, it is collaborating with experienced partners whose initiatives have a nationwide impact. Further information on the Commerzbank Foundation can be found at http://www.commerzbank-stiftung.de.

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