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Gene Likens

Seminar Course: Scientific Ethics & Commuication, Water: The Challenging Interface Between Scientific Understanding and Policy

November 7, 2011

Dr. Gene E. Likens’ research focuses on the ecology and biogeochemistry of forest and aquatic ecosystems, primarily through long-term studies at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. He co-founded the Hubbard Brook Ecosystem Study in 1963, which has shed light on critical links between ecosystem function and land-use practices. He and his colleagues were the first scientists to document the link between the combustion of fossil fuels and an increase in the acidity of precipitation in North America, now known as acid rain. His findings have influenced policy makers, guided and motivated scientific studies, and increased public awareness of human-accelerated environmental change.

Likens was elected to the United States National Academy of Sciences in 1981. In 1983 he founded the Institute of Ecosystem Studies (IES) in Millbrook, N.Y., as part of the New York Botanical Garden. The IES became independent in 1993 with Likens as director and president. In 2007 Likens stepped down as director of the IES and returned to full-time research.

Likens was also elected as foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1988, the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters in 1994 and the Austrian Academy of Sciences in 2000. He was awarded the U.S. National Medal of Science in 2001.

In 2003 Dr. Likens was a co-recipient of the 2003 Blue Planet Prize for outstanding scientific research that helps to solve global environmental problems from the Asahi Glass Foundation. He was awarded the distinction along with Dr. F. H. Bormann, his long-term collaborator in the Hubbard Brook Ecosystem Study in New Hampshire. The Asahi Glass Foundation aspires for the Blue Planet Prize to be recognized as the environmental equivalent of the Nobel Prize. In 2002 Likens was awarded the 2001 National Medal of Science, the nation’s highest science honor, for his contributions to the field of ecology.