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Stanford Report, July 9, 2003

Watt named president of the California Academy of Sciences

Ward B. Watt, professor of biological sciences, has been elected president of the California Academy of Sciences, the oldest scientific institution in the West.

Watt has been a research associate in entomology at the academy since 1991 and became a member of the board of trustees in 1997. As president, he will oversee scientific activities and chair the academy's Science Council, an advisory committee that develops and implements the scientific program and reviews scientific activities within the institution.

"The academy must continue and strengthen its world-leading efforts toward the discovery of new insights into living diversity and the recognition of natural processes that maintain and promote that diversity," Watt said. "I hope to explain, to professional colleagues and the interested public alike, how important it is that we increase our fundamental knowledge of living things, both for its own sake and so that we can then apply that knowledge actively to solve urgent, practical human and environmental problems. We do not know enough to solve our problems now, and we must learn quickly what we need to know, as the problems will not wait upon our convenience."

Evolutionary research

Watt joined the Stanford faculty in 1969. His research focuses on developing evolutionary theory from mechanistic viewpoints. Using techniques ranging from biochemistry and DNA sequencing to field ecology and mathematical population genetics, he and his group study biochemical and physiological mechanisms of genetic variation; ecological niche structure as the source of natural-selective pressures; the resulting patterns of evolution of metabolic organization; and the interaction between these specializations and the differentiation of species through time.

Elected a fellow of the academy in 1992, Watt is also a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

"As the academy looks to the future of scientific research and the task of educating the public to better celebrate and protect our natural world, Dr. Watt is the kind of advocate the academy needs to support our efforts," noted J. Patrick Kociolek, academy executive director.

Golden Gate Park

Established in 1853, the academy is dedicated to exploring, explaining and protecting the natural world. Its headquarters in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park is home to the Steinhart Aquarium, Morrison Planetarium and the Natural History Museum. The staff includes 30 scientists supported by more than 100 research and field associates and more than 300 fellows working through eight departments: anthropology; aquatic biology; botany; entomology; herpetology; ichthyology; invertebrate zoology and geology; and ornithology and mammalogy.

The academy collection includes some 18 million artifacts, fossils, animals and plants, including Stanford's 850,000-specimen Dudley Herbarium, which was placed on permanent loan in 1976.