- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Evolutionary ecologist Anurag Agrawal (right), who received his doctorate in population biology from the University of California, Davis in 1999 under major professor Richard “Rick” Karban, has just received the sixth David Starr Jordan Prize for his innovative research inolving plant-animal interactions.
The international award, given approximately every three years, comes with a $20,000 prize and a commemorative medal.
Agrawal, now an associate professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University, also serves as the associate director for the Cornell Center for a Sustainable Future and director of the Cornell Chemical Ecology Group.
Does the name "David Starr Jordan" ring a bell? It should. He was a leading American biologist (1851-1931) who was educated at Cornell; taught zoology at Indiana; and served as president of both Indiana and Stanford universities.
The three universities established the joint endowment in 1986 and have awarded the prize since 1987. “The intent of the David Starr Jordan Prize is to recognize scientists who are making research contributions likely to redirect the principal foci of their fields,” the awards committee said.
The coveted award is given to a young scientist, age 40 or under, who is making novel innovative contributions in one of Jordan’s fields of interest: evolution, ecology, population and organismal biology.
The awards committee, comprised of Cornell, Indiana and Stanford scientists, described Agrawal as “one of the foremost authorities on the community and evolutionary ecology of species interactions.”
“Dr. Agrawal has made highly influential contributions, including empirical and conceptual advances in our understanding of plant defense against herbivory, impacts of genetic diversity on community processes, co evolutionary interactions between monarch butterflies and milkweeds and deciphering the success of invasive plants,” the committee announced.
As the recipient of the David Starr Jordan Prize, he will lecture at the sponsoring institutions, beginning Feb. 18 at Cornell.
Born in 1972 in Allentown, Penn., Agrawal completed his undergraduate work in biology and his master’s degree in conservation biology at the University of Pennsylvania, where he became intrigued with plant-animal interactions. He then headed out to California in 1994 to study with Karban, a noted expert on plant-animal interactions. Karban, now a newly elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, teaches field ecology and community ecology.
“It was an amazing time being a graduate student at UC Davis and working with Rick Karban… a great foundation and nothing but great memories!” Agrawal said.