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9/10/96

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Harold Mooney named Eminent Ecologist for 1996

STANFORD -- The Ecological Society of America has awarded its highest honor to Harold A. Mooney, the Paul S. Achilles Professor in Environmental Biology at Stanford. Mooney was named Eminent Ecologist in a ceremony Aug. 12 at the society's annual meeting in Providence, R.I.

The award honors Mooney, 64, for both "an outstanding body of ecological work" and "sustained contributions of extraordinary merit." In its announcement of the award, the ecological society's nominating committee wrote, "For several decades, the originality of his research and the perspective he has developed toward ecological problems have shaped the way ecology is done both in North America and abroad. . . . No one has had a greater influence on ecology in the last quarter century."

Mooney's expertise ranges from measuring the adaptations of individual plants to measuring the processes of ecosystems and showing how human-induced ecological disturbances modify the functioning of the earth as a whole. "Largely because of his work, we now appreciate how important it is to span this broad scale in forecasting the effects of global change," the nominators said.

Mooney's colleague, Stanford biologist Peter Vitousek, said that an early contribution was Mooney's use of an analogy to economic systems to describe how organisms adapt to the environment. Mooney showed that plants are evolutionarily selected to maximize their accumulation of resources through a series of cost-benefit tradeoffs; for example, between energy costs and reproductive success. "This is now what people study in textbooks," Vitousek said. "It absolutely permeates the field."

Vitousek said Mooney long has served as a national and international leader on environmental change. "And he has trained a whole generation of the best young and now middle-aged people working in the field."

Mooney, who was born in Santa Rosa, Calif. in 1932, earned his bachelor's degree at the University of California-Santa Barbara in 1957 and his doctorate at Duke University in 1960. He joined the faculty at the University of California-Los Angeles in 1960 and came to Stanford as associate professor in 1968.

He currently serves as chairman of the U.S. National Research Council Committee on Ecosystem Management for Sustainable Marine Fisheries and as a member of the National Policy Council for the National Institute for Global Environmental Change. He was a coordinator of the United Nations Global Biodiversity Assessment, published last year.

Mooney is president of the Biological Society of America, vice president of the International Council of Scientific Unions and past president of the Ecological Society of America. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Among his honors are the Ecology Institute Prize for Terrestrial Ecology and the Max Planck Research Award.

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