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University of Minnesota's David Tilman wins Heineken Prize

David Tilman, a Regents professor of ecology at the University of Minnesota, already was one of the most widely honored scientists in the Upper Midwest.

Now, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences has awarded Tilman the 2010 Heineken Prize for Environmental Sciences

The Heineken Prizes of $150,000 each are awarded annually to five internationally acclaimed scientists and scholars. They are so prestigious that 10 previous winners of the Heinekens in medicine, chemistry and biophysics have gone on to win Nobel Prizes.

In announcing this year’s winners, the Royal Netherlands Academy said that Tilman received the prize “for the way in which he combines mathematical theories, laboratory research and field experiments to make a fundamental contribution to the science of ecology.”

Tilman’s findings, published in the journals Science and Nature during the 1980s and 1990s, showed that biodiversity is essential for stable and productive ecosystems. They also demonstrated the value of protecting endangered species.

More recently, Tilman has applied his discoveries to sustainable farming practices for renewable energy. He took the brave step in one of the nation’s top corn-growing states of showing that biofuels made from diverse prairie grasses can offer environment benefits over those made from food crops.

Tilman directs the Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve, a University of Minnesota field station, where he has conducted resource competition and biodiversity studies since the early 1980s. His grassland experiments, among the longest running in the world, provide a resource for ecology research.

The federally funded Cedar Creek research is part of a national network of Long-Term Ecology Research (LTER) sites.

Tilman joined the University of Minnesota faculty in 1976 after receiving his doctorate at the University of Michigan. His previous honors include:

  • The Institute for Scientific Information named him the most cited ecologist in the world for two decades, 1990-2000 and 1996-2006.
  • The Emperor of Japan awarded him the International Prize for Biology in 2008.
  • Membership in the National Academy of Sciences

The Heineken Prizes, named in honor of the family leaders of the international brewing conglomerate, are to be presented in September this year during a meeting of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.

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Comments (2)

As a teacher and writer on energy subjects, I have been able to rely on the excellent published work of Dave Tilman and his associates at the U of M Cedar Creek facility. They may be our best hope for an effective biofuels program - not a trivial task.

An excellent article by Sharon Schmickle.

Especially important is her mention of the fact that Professor Tilman initially took a lot of heat from those with an interest in corn as a biofuel. Some links can be found here:

http://blog.lib.umn.edu/bgleason/pt/2008/02/biofuels_study_upsets_farmer...

This is the reason that a strong, independent, research voice at the U of M and other public universities is necessary if we are to examine options for our future that are not too clouded by commercial considerations.

Let's hope that some day Sharon can report on David Tilman's winning the Nobel Prize. This work is potentially of the importance of that done by Norman Borlaug.