Yale Professor Receives Blue Planet Prize; Second in a Row for Yale's Environment School

Yale professor F. Herbert Bormann will receive the international environmental Blue Planet Prize from the Japanese Asahi Glass Foundation on Oct. 22 in Tokyo.

The prestigious prize is awarded annually to two individuals or organizations that have made major contributions to the conservation of the global environment.

Bormann, Oastler Professor Emeritus of Forest Ecology, will share the prize with Gene Likens, president and director of the Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, N.Y., for “their roles in developing a comprehensive understanding of the human impact on ecosystems through long-term measurement of flows of water and chemical substances in watersheds.”

The other Blue Planet Prize for 2003 will go to Vo Quy, a professor at the Center for Natural Resources Management and Environmental Studies at Vietnam National University in Hanoi, for his “key role in conserving and restoring Vietnam’s war-damaged environment and initiating community-based conservation projects.” Quy will receive an award of 50 million yen, and Bormann and Likens will split the other award of 50 million yen.

Likens and Bormann developed the Hubbard Brook Ecosystem Study, which revealed the relationship between fossil fuel use in North America and acid rain, and contributed critical data that Congress used to write the 1990 Clean Air Act. The Blue Planet Prize citation observes that “the Hubbard Brook Ecosystem Study, now in its 40th year, has become a model for the study of whole, intact or experimentally manipulated ecosystems throughout the world. The model allows comprehensive study of the structure, function and temporal development of whole ecosystems and their connection with the larger biogeochemical cycles of the Earth.”

Bormann, who retired from Yale in 1992 after 26 years on the faculty, changed the approach to ecosystem ecology in 1960 when he conceived of a technique for studying small watersheds that allowed for the measurement of nutrient cycles in whole ecosystems. Until then, scientists used a less accurate method of piecing together ecosystem behavior from individual, unrelated measurements. For the next three decades, Bormann and Likens pioneered and developed whole ecosystem research and management based on the application of the small watershed technique to United States Forest Service watersheds at Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire.

Yale President Richard C. Levin said, “Herb Bormann’s breakthrough technique for measuring the cycles of whole ecosystems has been adopted by environmental scientists throughout the world. This prize rightfully acknowledges his significant accomplishments, which have brought credit to the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and to Yale.”

Previous winners of the prize include: James Gustave Speth, dean of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies; Harold Mooney, the Paul S. Achilles Professor of Environmental Biology at Stanford University; Norman Myers, an honorary visiting fellow at Oxford University; Lord Robert May, president of the Royal Society of London; Paul Ehrlich, director of the Center of Conservation Biology at Stanford; the late David Brower, who was chairman of the Earth Island Institute; Wallace Broecker, Newberry Professor of Geology at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University; Maurice Strong, chairman of the Earth Council; Bert Bolin, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and Lester Brown, founder and president of the Worldwatch Institute.

The School of Forestry & Environmental Studies is unique in having two successive winners of the prize. Dean Speth received it last year for a career “devoted to creating and invigorating environmental institutions of extraordinary importance.”

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Dave DeFusco: david.defusco@yale.edu, 203-436-4842