May Berenbaum, a UI entomology professor and department head, will receive the 2011 Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, placing her alongside noted primatologist Jane Goodall and conservation biologist Paul Ehrlich, among others.
The award recognizes individuals who have "contributed in an outstanding manner to scientific knowledge and public leadership to preserve and enhance the environment of the world," according to the Tyler Prize committee.
"It's enormous. I'm still kind of stunned," Berenbaum said Tuesday, after the prize was announced.
She learned about the award a month ago, and when she first saw the email she assumed it was an invitation to serve on the prize committee.
"I knew I'd been nominated, but this is the Tyler Prize. It seemed to me it'd be quite a long shot," Berenbaum said.
Past recipients include several of Berenbaum's "personal scientific heroes," such as Ehrlich, an expert on the impact of human population on the environment; noted botanist Peter Raven, longtime director of the Missouri Botanical Garden; and zoologist George Evelyn Hutchinson, the father of American limnology, or the study of lakes. Berenbaum got the chance to meet Hutchinson when she was an undergraduate at Yale University.
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