Mercedes Pascual, Rosemary Grant Collegiate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, was presented with the Robert T. MacArthur Award by the Ecological Society of America.

“The MacArthur Award recognizes mid-career ecologist for meritorious contributions to ecology with the expectation of continued outstanding ecological research,” states an ESA press release. “ESA recognizes Pascual, with the University of Michigan, for her contributions to the theory of food web structure; the ecology, spread and evolution of infectious diseases; and the development and application of novel computational methods for relating climate to disease. Throughout her career, Pascual also has devoted enormous energy to fostering diversity of ecological researchers in the U.S. and mentoring junior researchers worldwide.”

The awards ceremony was held Monday, August 11 at the ESA 99th Annual Meeting in Sacramento, Calif. Pascual is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator.

The MacArthur Award Subcommittee’s recommendation of Pascual included the following: “Her research on food webs brought new network approaches to bear on fundamental issues in community ecology and focused attention on the potential for critical transitions to drive these systems. She has investigated ‘robust criticality’ in processes as varied as forest fire dynamics and food webs in the Serengeti, and her work has advanced understanding of the dynamics of complex systems. She blends theory and empiricism and has been an ardent proponent of confronting models with data to understand ecological patterns.

“Dr. Pascual has studied ecological dynamics of several of the world's most devastating diseases, including malaria, cholera, and influenza. Using advanced statistical methods, she demonstrated the importance of climate variability in driving cholera outbreaks, and effects of temperature on the spatial spread of malaria in mosquitos. These efforts required creative theory along with in-depth ecological understanding of disease vectors, and the research has tremendous potential for improving global health; for example, her studies may help to provide advance warning of potential disease outbreaks…(Pascual has devoted enormous energy to) facilitating effective communication and collaboration among diverse research groups. In recognition of her intellectual leadership and contributions to ecology, we unanimously recommend Dr. Mercedes Pascual for this year’s MacArthur Award.”

ESA presented 10 awards recognizing outstanding contributions to ecology in new discoveries, teaching, sustainability, diversity, and lifelong commitment to the profession during the meeting.

Awardees are generally are within 20 years of receiving the Ph.D. Nominees may be from any country and need not be ESA members. This award is given in alternate years, and the recipient is invited to address the membership at the annual meeting following selection. Recent recipients include Drs. Alan Hastings, Monica Turner, Stephen W. Pacala, and Anthony R. Ives.

See Three 2014 ESA Fellows hail from U-M EEB in previous EEB web news