University of Minnesota

Ecological Society pays tribute to legendary Minnesota scientists

August 2, 2013

Media note: Photos may be taken at the 9:30 a.m. break or when the program concludes at 11:30. The News Service will make photos available to media the day of the event.

Who: Eville Gorham, Margaret Davis and Herbert E. Wright
What: 98th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America
Where: 205AB, Minneapolis Convention Center
When: Tuesday, Aug 6; 8:00 – 11:30 a.m.  

Three legendary scientists from the University of Minnesota will be recognized at the annual Ecological Society of America (ESA) at the Minneapolis Convention Center Tuesday, August 6.

Eville Gorham, Margaret Davis and Herbert E. Wright, now retired, conducted groundbreaking ecology research beginning in the 1960s that provided the basis for current research on climate change, which is the theme of this year’s ESA meeting.

Eville Gorham
Gorham conducted basic research on peatlands in the 1960s that linked emissions from industrial smokestacks to acid rain. He also discovered that fallout from nuclear testing had entered the food chain and traveled to remote areas. The first discovery led to modifications of industrial plants that eliminated sulfuric acid rain in many parts of the world. The second discovery was a stimulus for the 1963 Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

Margaret Davis
Using fossil records for pollen buried deep in the earth, Davis traced the formation of prehistoric forests and the dynamics that drove their movement across continents. Her research, which showed how climate change affected the development of plant ecosystems, informs current efforts to predict the future effects of today’s climate change. She was the first woman from the University of Minnesota elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

Herbert E. Wright
Wright reconstructed environmental history in the context of human activity by interpreting data from landforms, vegetation and fossil organisms in lake sediments in Minnesota, elsewhere in the U.S., Canada and many other parts of the world, including Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, Scandinavia and the Andes. Scientists worldwide now use the coring system he designed to remove sediments under lakes.

All three were elected to the National Academy of Sciences and appointed Regents Professors for their accomplishments. Gorham and Davis are emeritus professors in the College of Biological Sciences Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior. Wright is professor emeritus in the College of Science and Engineering’s Department of Earth Sciences. He was Regents Professor of Geology, Ecology and Limnology.

Symposium speakers will discuss the influence of these three scientists on current climate change research and the future of sustainability. All speakers are alumni of the University of Minnesota ecology graduate program who are now professors at other U.S. universities.

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