ROBERT H. MACARTHUR AWARD IN ECOLOGY

Picture of Dr. James Brown     Once every two years the Ecological Society of America (ESA) gives the MacArthur Award to an established ecologist in mid-career for meritorious contributions to ecology, in the expectation of continued outstanding ecological research. In July, 2003, the ESA announced that James H. Brown, a Regents' Professor at the University of New Mexico (UNM), was chosen because of a wide range of seminal studies and his ability to blend theoretical and empirical studies. In making the announcement, the Award Committee of the ESA made the following statements: "His work on desert rodent communities is classic and has greatly advanced our understanding of animal communities. His application of island biogeography theory to mountaintops as islands was ingenious and innovative. His work in developing, with Brian Maurer, the nascent discipline of macroecology has been seminal. Like few others, Jim Brown is a consummate ecologist, with triumphs ranging from physiology to ecosystems, and with a strong evolutionary context."

     In addition to these noted accomplishments, Jim's latest work with Dr. Brian Enquist, Jim's former graduate student, and Dr. Goeff West, a physicist from the Santa Fe Institute, on scaling and allometry may prove to have even wider impact. Using realistic constraints and optimization principles, they have been able to reproduce an amazing range of allometric relationships seen in nature. The idea is that metabolic rates vary in proportion to 3/4-power of an organism's mass; in other words, scaling laws describe how different parts or characteristics of all living organisms vary (i.e., scale) in proportion to changes in body size.

      For a more detailed overview of this work, see the recent summary article by Philip Hunter (Hunter, P. 2003. The power of power laws. The Scientist, 17:22-25).

Oct. 13, 2003

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