Steve Carpenter Receives 2018 Ramon Margalef Prize in Ecology

Steve Carpenter back in Lake Mendota. ©UW-Madison University Communications Photo by: Jeff Miller

Steve Carpenter, professor emeritus of the Center for Limnology at the University of Wiscosnin-Madison, received the Ramon Margalef Prize in Ecology today at a ceremony in Barcelona.

The award is given each year by the Government of Catalonia, an autonomous community in the northeastern corner of Spain, in memory of ecologist, Ramon Margalef, who was one of Spain’s most notable scientists until his death in 2004. Margalef is credited with advancements in ecological thinking, theory and modeling and, since his death, the award has been given in recognition of other exceptional careers in the environmental sciences.

In a press release, the Catalonian government states that Carpenter, who becomes the first limnologist to receive it, is being recognized for his “creative and original work, which has transformed our understanding of ecosystems” and promoted “the understanding of lakes and the rational use of water resources.” In addition to placing Carpenter alongside accomplished scientists in his field, the award comes with prize money totaling 80,000 Euros.

Carpenter says that the role Ramon Margalef played in shaping his own thinking makes the award particularly special. As an undergraduate student just starting out in the field of ecology, Carpenter recalls being assigned to read some of Margalef’s scientific papers. Those reports “captured my imagination,” Carpenter recalls. “I was intrigued by Margalef’s ideas … these were some of the first concepts about ecosystems as a whole, integrated complex system. Thinking about ecosystems as a whole led to my own focus on the experimental study of whole ecosystems.”

In his acceptance speech, Carpenter also credited the large team of collaborators needed to make careers like his possible. “Although I am standing here alone to accept a great award, all accomplishments in science depend on teamwork and luck,” he said. “I am fortunate to work in the Center for Limnology at the University of Wisconsin – an institute dedicated to long-term observation of lakes and watersheds. … [L]ong term observation of whole ecosystems extends beyond the scope of any one career. It requires an organization of thoughtful committed people, working together as a team, in institutions that are designed to be broader, more long-lasting, and more integrative than any individual person can be in a lifetime.”

As part of the award ceremonies, Carpenter will give a lecture in Barcelona at 10:00 am on Wednesday, December 19th. The talk will be livestreamed and available via this link, although our readers residing in the Central Time Zone are advised that that’s at 3:00 am here!

We at the CFL are thrilled for Steve and wish him safe travels and offer our hearty congratulations as his remarkable scientific career continues to be recognized.