The Yale Peabody Museum Presented its Distinguished Verrill Medal to Alison Richard, Vice Chancellor of the University of Cambridge

The Yale Peabody Museum will present its distinguished Verrill Medal to Alison Richard, vice chancellor of the University of Cambridge, at a ceremony at Yale’s Luce Hall on Wednesday, April 23.

Richard was the director of the Peabody from 1991 to1994 and the provost of Yale University from 1994 to 2003 when she was appointed as the 344th chancellor of the University of Cambridge and the first female to hold that position. The medal presentation, led by Peabody Director Michael Donoghue, will take place at 5:00 p.m.

Preceding the presentation at 4:00 p.m., there will be a talk, “Biodiversity Past, Present, and Future: From the Island of Madagascar to Island Earth,” delivered by Michael Novacek, senior vice president and provost of science at the American Museum of Natural History. The talk, part of the Edward P. Bass Distinguished Lecture series, will address the question: What organisms will get through this sieve of destruction and how will the resultant environments define our quality of life in the future? Novacek will address the massive global trauma to ecosystems and species caused by habitat destruction, over-harvesting, pollution, invasive species and climate change.

The program, including a reception following the presentation, is free and open to the public. The Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies is co-sponsoring the event.

Awarded by the Curatorial Board of the Yale Peabody Museum, the Verrill Medal recognizes outstanding achievement in the natural sciences. It was established in 1959 to honor Addison Emery Verrill (1839–1926), Yale University’s first professor of zoology and one of the nineteenth century’s great zoologists. Past recipients include Ernst Mayr, George Gaylord Simpson, G. Ledyard Stebbins, G. Evelyn Hutchinson, John H. Ostrom, Peter Raven and E.O. Wilson.

As an anthropologist, Alison Richard is most widely known for her work in the forests of southern Madagascar. Her research has focused on the population dynamics, ecology and social behavior of the sifaka, one of Madagascar’s endangered primates, shedding new light on the unique pathways of evolution exhibited by the island’s animal community. In collaboration with her Malagasy colleagues, Richard has emphasized partnership with villagers in this remote region of Madagascar. Since 1977, she has helped lead an ongoing effort to conserve the area’s remarkable natural heritage and enhance socioeconomic opportunities for people trying to make a living in and around the forest.

Richard holds honorary degrees from Peking University, China (2004), the University of Antananarivo, Madagascar (2005), York University, Toronto (2006) and the University of Edinburgh (2006). In 2005 she was appointed Officier de l’Ordre National (Madagascar).

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