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Tilman awarded Balzan Prize

Award recognizes researcher’s contribution to understanding of the structure of plant communities and how they interact with their environment.


David Tilman, Regents' Professor and McKnight Presidential Chair in Ecology, has received a 2014 Balzan Prize in recognition of his outstanding scholarly contributions in ecology. The international award comes with an $800,000 prize, half of which is to support young researchers working with Tilman. He is a past winner of the Heineken Prize and the a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

Photo of David Tilman standing in a fieldAccording to a release by the International Balzan Prize Foundation, Tilman received the distinction for his “huge contributions to theoretical and experimental plant ecology, work that underpins much of our current understanding of how plant communities are structured and interact with their environment.”

The Balzan Prize recognizes achievements in the humanities and natural sciences, as well as in advancing peace among humanity. The foundation varies the fields it recognizes each year with an eye to uplifting innovative research across disciplinary boundaries. Tilman was one of four scholars from around the world to receive the prize this year.Past recipients of the award include Mother Teresa of Calcutta and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

“I am deeply honored to be chosen for the Balzan Prize, and delighted that this award will also support young scholars who share my interests in the unsolved mysteries of ecology and the environmental problems that the earth faces,” says Tilman. “The examples set by my senior colleagues almost four decades ago inspired any successes that I have been fortunate to have.” Tilman cites influential U of M ecologists Margaret Davis, Eville Gorham and Herb Wright as predecessors who helped shape him as a researcher, and notes the importance of his collaborations with current U of M faculty including Clarence Lehman, Peter Reich, Sarah Hobbie and Steve Polasky.

“Science is a team sport,” says Tilman. “I have been fortunate to work with more than 40 Ph.D. students and post-doctoral researchers, and almost 400 undergraduate research assistants over the past 34 years, all of whom have made important contributions.”