11 Jun 2008 00:00:00.000
A University of Nottingham scientist working to understand and preserve endangered species for future generations has been honoured with a prestigious award presented only every 50 years.
Professor Bryan Clarke FRS is to receive the Darwin-Wallace Medal 2008 for his huge contribution to advances in evolutionary biology since 1958 - the last time the award was given.
Named in honour of Charles Darwin and his fellow naturalist Alfred Russell Wallace, the medal is being awarded to recognise Professor Clarke's long and distinguished career as a population geneticist and evolutionary biologist.
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He is a leader in the conservation genetics of endangered species and is best known for his work on frequency-dependent selection, in contexts as diverse as host-parasite interactions and the demography of snails. His research on snails in Moorea, Tahiti and other islands, combined with behaviour and genetics research in the lab, is a classical study of speciation and adaptive diversification. It led to the founding of breeding stocks in the laboratory at a time when the natural populations were declining to extinction.
Professor Clarke has also played a key role in the 'Frozen Ark' project to store DNA from rare and endangered species. The aim of 'Frozen Ark', as its name suggests, is to ensure that the important genetic information contained within animals it is not lost forever should they become extinct in the future.
Samples of DNA from hundreds of species - from an Arabian oryx, a Socorro dove and a spotted seahorse to a Banggai Cardinal, a British field cricket and a flame-kneed tarantula - are now stored permanently to ensure that their genetic material is not lost forever.
The Darwin-Wallace Medal 2008 is awarded by the Linnean Society of London every 50 years. This year commemorates the 150th reading of the groundbreaking joint Darwin-Wallace paper that was one of the foundations of the theory of evolution. The paper, 'On the Tendency of Species to form Varieties; and on the Perpetuation of Varieties and Species by Natural Means of Selection' at the Linnean Society in 1858.
Professor Clarke will receive his medal on Darwin's 200th birthday.
Professor Clarke said: "I am very pleased, and very surprised, to be in this distinguished company. It is encouraging that some people think my time hasn't been wasted."
The Linnean Society of London is the world's oldest active biological society. Founded in 1788, the Society takes its name from the great Swedish naturalist, Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) who developed the system of binomial nomenclature. This system today provides the fundamental framework for knowledge of the biota of the Earth, supporting effective conservation measures and the sustainable use of biodiversity.
The Frozen Ark project also involves scientists from the Institute of Zoology and London's Natural History Museum, as well as institutions in India, South Africa, Australia and the US.
Professor David Brook, Head of The University of Nottingham's School of Biology, said: "This is a fabulous award and one that is thoroughly deserved as it recognises Bryan's outstanding contribution to evolutionary research over the past 50 years."
In all, 13 scientists are being honoured with Darwin-Wallace Medals in 2008. The full list of recipients is as follows: Professor Nick Barton FRS, Professor M W Chase FRS, FLS, Professor B C Clarke FRS, FLS, Professor Joseph Felsenstein, the late Professor Stephen Jay Gould, Professor P R Grant FRS, FLS, Dr Rosemary Grant FRS, Professor J L B Mallet FLS, Professor Lynn Margulis FLS, the late Professor John Maynard-Smith FRS, FLS, Professor Mohamed Noor, Professor H Allen Orr and Professor Linda Partridge FRS.
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Notes to editors:
The Linnean Society of London is the world's oldest active biological society. Founded in 1788, the Society takes its name from the great Swedish naturalist, Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) who developed the system of binomial nomenclature. This system today provides the fundamental framework for knowledge of the biota of the Earth, supporting effective conservation measures and the sustainable use of biodiversity. The Society is the custodian of Linnaeus' original library and collections and is creating a digital archive, enabling full global access. It encourages and communicates scientific advances through its three world-class journals, open meetings and website. The Society's Fellowship is international and its Fellows are drawn from all walks of life including professional scientists and amateur naturalists. The Society welcomes anyone interested in natural history, in all its forms.
The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 70 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and Times Higher (THE) World University Rankings.
It provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's "only truly global university", it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation - School of Pharmacy).
Its students are much in demand from 'blue-chip' employers. Winners of Students in Free Enterprise for four years in succession, and current holder of UK Graduate of the Year, they are accomplished artists, scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, innovators and fundraisers. Nottingham graduates consistently excel in business, the media, the arts and sport. Undergraduate and postgraduate degree completion rates are amongst the highest in the United Kingdom.