Leading conservation scientists awarded prestigious 2010 Tyler Environmental Prize

April 01, 2010

Los Angeles, CA (1 April 2010)--Two conservationists who have dedicated their lives to protect and restore endangered species from the brink of extinction and ensure their habitat remains for generations to come will share the 2010 Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, one of the world's first international environmental awards to be established. Since its inception in 1973, the Tyler Prize continues to be the premier award for environmental science, environmental health and energy, given to those who confer great benefit upon humankind through environmental restoration and achievement.

The Tyler Prize honors exceptional foresight and dedication in the environmental sciences--qualities that mirror the prescience of the Prize's founders, John and Alice Tyler, who established it while the environmental debate was still in its infancy. As Tyler Prize recipients, Laurie Marker and Stuart Pimm will join a distinguished group of past laureates including Edward O. Wilson, recognized for his early work on the theory of island biogeography; Jane Goodall, selected for her seminal studies on the behavior and ecology of chimpanzees and her impact on wildlife awareness and environmental conservation; Jared Diamond, a renowned author who gave birth to the discipline of conservation biology; and Thomas Lovejoy, a central figure in alerting the world to the critical problem of dwindling tropical forests.

This year, the award, consisting of a $200,000 cash prize and gold medals, goes to Dr. Laurie Marker, the co-founder and executive director of the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Otjiwarongo, Namibia, and Professor Stuart Pimm, the Doris Duke Professor of Conservation Ecology at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.

"Dr. Marker and Dr. Pimm represent the best among conservationist leaders and possess the unique intersection of superb environmental and biological science with savvy political and advocacy skills,"said Tyler Prize Executive Committee Chair Owen T. Lind, Professor of Biology, Baylor University. "They are living, breathing heroes of our environment and our animal species on earth."

Laurie Marker, Cheetah Conservation Fund

Laurie Marker has worked to protect the cheetahs from extinction for 36 years by studying their biology and environment and implementing various measures to minimize their conflict with people. She established the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) in 1990 in Namibia to put these measures into place in the country with the largest population of wild cheetahs. Because most wild cheetahs live on livestock grazing lands, CCF provides farmers with methods to reduce cheetah predation on their livestock as well as the degradation of grazing land and wildlife habitat by invasive bush.

Marker understood that in order to save the endangered cat from extinction, she would have to get buy-in from the people with whom they share a habitat. Marker's group works to educate the general public about the importance of predators in a working ecosystem and has initiated groundbreaking projects, including the breeding of guard dogs for livestock herds to reduce cheetah predation, and another that creates an economic enterprise to clear invasive thorny bushes and process them into wood fuel briquettes (known as Bushblok).

These projects are creating jobs, building a constituency among rural Namibians for cheetah conservation, and, at the same time, restoring and protecting thousands of hectares of farmland, livestock pastures and wildlife habitat.

Marker's nomination for the Tyler Prize was initiated by a former U.S. Ambassador to Namibia, Jeffrey Bader. In his letter of nomination, Bader called Marker "literally and figuratively a force of nature," describing the work of the Cheetah Conservation Fund as "the most successful project I have ever seen to protect the world's biodiversity."

Stuart Pimm, Duke University

Stuart Pimm, an expert on the science of extinction, is a leading conservation scientist whose influential work on food webs created a forum for understanding how losses in species diversity at one level could impact other levels of an ecological community. As one of the most cited scientists in conservation biology, Pimm has conducted research in many of the world's most important biodiversity hotspots and has helped solve some of the most difficult problems facing conservation today. He has been involved in the restoration of the Florida Everglades, the reintroduction of the Guam Rail (a native Guam bird) to the wild, and worked to save many other critically endangered species in the USA and elsewhere.

He has written a highly influential book on conservation theory, "The Balance of Nature," and also developed a metric for extinction rates--using remote sensing technologies to model endangered populations. This tool allows scientists to develop a "roadmap" of next steps in conservation efforts. This "map" shows us that while past extinctions occurred mostly on islands, future extinctions will occur mostly on continents.

Stuart Pimm has a long career in conservation research, teaching and public policy, and when Pimm's colleagues refer to his work, they frequently cite its influence as well as its substance. In his letter of nomination for the Tyler Prize, Edward O. Wilson, an emeritus Harvard University professor and himself a Tyler Laureate, said Pimm's achievements "serve as an environmental conservation template."
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Lecture and Award Ceremony

On Thursday, April 22, at 2 p.m., Marker and Pimm will deliver public lectures at the Davidson Conference Center of the University of Southern California, which administers the prize. This is open to the public.

And in a private ceremony, on Friday, April 23, at 7 p.m., the Tyler Prize Executive Committee and the international environmental community will honor the recipients at a banquet and ceremony at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills.

About the Tyler Prize

The Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement is one of the first international premier awards for environmental science, environmental health and energy.

It was established by the late John and Alice Tyler in 1973 and has been awarded annually to sixty-one individuals and four organizations associated with world-class environmental accomplishments. Recipients encompass the spectrum of environmental concerns including environmental policy, environmental health, air and water pollution, ecosystem disruption and loss of biodiversity, and energy resources.

For more information on the Tyler Prize and its recipients, go to: http://www.usc.edu/dept/LAS/tylerprize

Burness

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