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The 2015 Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, a premier award for environmental science, environmental health and energy, is awarded to renowned ecologist Dr. Madhav Gadgil, who shares the prize with Jane Lubchenco of Oregon State University

Photo:http://tylerprize.usc.edu

The 42nd Tyler Prize recognizes careers dedicated to informing policy with sound science, and engaging local communities, and Dr. Madhav Gadgil and Dr. Jane Lubchenco were named its recipients this year for their leadership and engagement in the development of conservation and sustainability policies in India, the United States and internationally.

Dr. Gadgil's work in quantitative ecology and population biology is widely recognized in his field and his efforts in applied science and strengthening the social aspects of environmental awareness have been truly impactful, said the official press note. Dr. Lubchenco’s career, which has spanned academic appointments and policymaking, has been dedicated to raising awareness of the importance of the ocean and the need to protect it.

“Drs. Lubchenco and Gadgil represent the very best in bringing high-quality science to policymaking to protect our environment and ensure the sustainability of natural resources in their respective countries and around the world,” said Tyler Prize Executive Committee Chair Owen T. Lind, Professor of Biology at Baylor University. “Both of these laureates have bridged science with cultural and economic realities—like the impact on Indigenous Peoples in India or fishing communities in the United States—to advance the best possible conservation policies.”

The Tyler Prize Executive Committee specifically mentioned Dr. Gadgil’s contributions to protection and preservation of the Western Ghats. “Dr. Gadgil is well-known for his preservation achievements in the Western Ghats region of Southern India, a unique global biodiversity hotspot. His colleagues speak highly of the on-the-ground community work he has done with local villages to promote participatory resource conservation. He has been called a pioneer in recognizing and leveraging the human role in environmental science and ecological management.”

The Committee also recognized that through untiring efforts, Dr. Gadgil has helped preserve sacred groves in India and abroad and has also established methods for local groups to inventory and monitor biodiversity within their communities through “People’s Biodiversity Registers” in conjunction with India’s Biological Diversity Act. “He has helped reform resource management in India, leading to increased forest preservation in culturally significant locations such as Silent Valley National Park, which contains one of the last untouched stretches of South Western Ghats mountain rain forests. By engaging communities in India and enhancing the crucial cultural connections that exist between humans and their natural surroundings, he has advanced sustainable resource management, promoted conservation and provided grassroots education to one of the most populous and biodiverse regions of the world.”

Dr. Gadgil was born in Pune in 1942, and graduated from Bombay University with a Master’s Degree in Zoology in 1965. From there, he went on to Harvard University, where he received a Ph.D. in Biology for his thesis in mathematical ecology, which quickly became a citation classic. This work earned him an IBM Fellowship at the Harvard Computing Center, and he stayed on at the university as a lecturer in biology.

In 1971, Dr. Gadgil returned to India to support the practical and scientific applications of ecological research in his home county. He began this work as a scientific officer for the Maharashtra Association for Cultivation of Science in Pune. In 1973, he helped set up the Centre of Theoretical Studies at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, where he went on to establish the Centre for Ecological Studies in 1983. He worked at the Indian Institute of Science for more than 30 years, taking on roles that range from Assistant Professor to Chairman.

Throughout his tenure at the Centre of Theoretical Studies, Dr. Gadgil oversaw innovative projects that made dramatic and lasting impacts on India’s environmental and social landscapes. He is responsible for one of the first thorough censuses of India’s wild elephant populations, and it has continued to be updated and monitored through the work of the Indian Institute of Science. Gadgil’s research has also included forest management studies and long-term monitoring of forested regions, one of which led to a policy-level reduction of incentives provided to forest-based industries in the country. He published some of the earliest studies of India’s sacred groves and continued this work in a grassroots sense by engaging nearby village councils to increase public awareness and promote preservation of these unique environments on a local level.

More recently, Dr. Gadgil is known to have worked extensively for greater conservation in the Western Ghats region, and he has become well-known for his work chairing the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel, also known as the “Gadgil Panel.” The group produced a two-volume report, which makes recommendations for regional environmental protection while also promoting sustainable development in a manner that is mindful of human needs. This work was presented to the Government of India in 2011 and it was released to the public later. It has sparked political debate and grassroots movements in India, and has been translated and shared broadly.

In keeping with his body of work, Dr. Gadgil’s publications have had a tremendous influence on social environmental problems and have been instrumental in bringing India into worldwide discussions on ecological issues. Two of his books—This Fissured Land: An Ecological History of India, published in 1992, and Ecology and Equity: Use and Abuse of Nature in Contemporary India, published in 1995—have been translated into several languages and continue to be widely used as university texts. To date, Dr. Gadgil has written six books, 227 scientific papers, and numerous manuals and advisory reports.

He has also been an active member in a wide range of professional and governmental committees such as the Karnataka State Planning Board, the Scientific Advisory Council to the Prime Minister of India and India’s National Advisory Council. He was Vice President of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Convention on Biological Diversity Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advancement, where he made advancements in solidifying countries’ sovereign resource rights. Gadgil also served as the Chair of the Global Environmental Facility Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel for four years.

Dr. Gadgil has been recognized throughout his career with numerous accolades presented by peers and government officials. He has been awarded two of India’s highest civilian honors by the President of India—the Padma Shri in 1981 and the Padma Bhutan in 2006. He received the Shanti Swarun Bhatnagar Award for Biological Sciences and was honored with the Pew Scholars Award in Conservation and the Environment. Harvard University presented him with the Centennial Medal in 2002, and he was a recipient of the Volvo Environment Prize in 2003.

Dr. Gadgil’s nomination for the Tyler Prize was initiated by Jose A. Sarukhan, the National Coordinator at the National Commission for Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity in Mexico. Dr. Gadgil is described by his peers as a man both impressive and humble, and his nominating materials make it clear that his influence as an environmental leader has been very far-reaching. In a letter of support for the nomination, Dr. Marcus Feldman, Professor of Biology at Stanford University, spoke of Gadgil’s pioneering work in recognizing human stakeholders in environmental science, attesting that “no one has done more to develop ecology and environmental studies in India than Madhav Gadgil.”

As the winners of the Tyler Prize, Lubchenco and Gadgil will share the $200,000 cash prize and each receive a gold medallion. Previous laureates include 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 and Paul and Anne Ehrlich, renowned authors who helped give birth to the discipline of conservation biology; M.S. Swaminathan, an agricultural scientist who helped dramatically improve crop yields in India; and Thomas Lovejoy, a central figure in alerting the world to the critical problem of dwindling tropical forests.

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