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Environmental scientist's early warning indicators win the prize

December 02, 2016

Promising environmental researcher David Seekell has been awarded a prestigious prize: the Science and SciLifeLab Prize for Young Scientists. He was awarded the prize for his dissertation at Umeå University that developed early warning indicators for environmental tipping points practically usable to government officials and landowners.

The Science and SciLifeLab Prize is global and is only awarded to four young scientists per year for the best dissertation work, of which only one goes to someone in the field of environmental science. This year's award-winner in the category of Ecology and Environment is David Seekell who is associate senior lecturer at the Department of Ecology and Environmental Science at Umeå University in Sweden.

"It's a great honour to win this prize. I'm excited for the international visibility this will bring my research programme and I feel a renewed energy to continue addressing difficult and important questions that are worthy of the prize," says David Seekell.

David Seekell received the Prize for Young Scientists for research that contributed to the development of early warning indicators for environmental tipping points including desertification in arid regions, fisheries collapses in the oceans, and algae blooms in lakes. His praised essay, published in Science, describes an experiment where an entire lake was instrumented and then manipulated to create a tipping point. Early warning indicators were apparent well in advance of the experimental tipping point. This study was proof-of-concept that government officials and landowners may one day be able to use early warning indicators to adapt policy and management to avoid costly or potentially irreversible environmental degradation.

"For me it's very exciting to be able to communicate my research to Science's broad audience. I think that fundamental environmental science, the type of research I conduct, creates important societal benefits and I hope that the dissertation that won me the prize will convey this to Science's readers."

While the award is addressed to him, he sees it as a reflection of a broader commitment of the Department of Ecology and Environmental Science to research excellence. Besides being awarded a trophy and USD 10 000, he is given the opportunity to publish a scientific paper in Science, and also attend a discussion panel at Karolinska Institutet with the editor of Science.

The prize ceremony takes place in Stockholm, Sweden, on 9 December in the Hall of Mirrors at the Grand Hotel.
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Biography

David Seekell was born in Massachusetts, USA, in 1986. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Natural Resources from the University of Vermont and a PhD in Environmental Science from the University of Virginia from 2014. David Seekell joined Umeå University in July 2016 as a Wallenberg Academy Fellow. David Seekell conducts research in the areas of aquatic ecology, and global food and water security.

About the Prize

The Science & SciLifeLab Prize for Young Scientists is a global prize, established in 2013, aimed at rewarding scientists at an early stage of their careers. The international Prize is awarded annually to four young scientists for outstanding life science research for which he/she earned a doctoral degree in the previous two years.

Read the praised essay in Science
Seekell, D.: Passing the point of no return. Science (2016) Vol 354 Issue 6315. 10.1126/science.aal2188
Link to the essay

Umea University

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