Professor Jeremy Jackson of Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego has been awarded the Paleontological Society Medal, the highest honor given to paleontologists.
A leading coral reef scientist who has applied the lessons of historical marine ecology to help understand the complex range of ills facing today's oceans, Jackson was given the honor Oct. 17 at the Geological Society of America meeting in Portland, Ore.
Jackson, a professor of oceanography and director of the Scripps Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation, researches the long-term ecological effects of overfishing on coastal ecosystems and the ecological and evolutionary consequences of the formation of the Isthmus of Panama, which divided the Pacific and Atlantic oceans about three million years ago.
"Jeremy Jackson has, by his own publications, and by his facilitation, on a very large scale, of other paleontologists' work, made an enormous contribution to paleontological research," noted the Paleontological Society Medal citation. "He represents the perfect alliance of paleontology and biology in the quest to answer important evolutionary and paleoecological questions."
Jackson's recent "Brave New Ocean" presentations describe the future of the world's oceans in the face of overfishing, habitat destruction and ocean warming, effects that have transformed intricate marine food webs with large animals into simplistic ecosystems dominated by microbes, toxic algal blooms, jellyfish and disease. He describes this degradation as "the rise of slime." Jackson believes, however, that successful management and conservation strategies could renew the health and sustainability of our oceans.
Jackson is co-founder of the Shifting Baselines Media Campaign, a public educational program bringing together ocean conservation scientists and organizations with Hollywood filmmakers and producers. "Shifting baselines" reflects the idea of losing track of standards and failing to realize how much has changed over time. The campaign has developed unconventional outreach materials such as public service announcements with famous actors and comic settings.
"He is one of very, very few who are equally comfortable in ecology, evolutionary biology, paleobiology and conservation biology," according to the citation. "His research, mentoring and extended influence in multiple complementary scientific disciplines, government and society makes him a scientist of the highest caliber."
Jackson is the author of more than 100 scientific publications and five books. Last year he was awarded the Roger Tory Peterson Medal by the Harvard Museum of Natural History. In 2007 he was selected as co-recipient of the International Award for Research in Ecology and Conservation Biology by the Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria Foundation in Madrid, Spain.
He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science and received the Secretary's Gold Medal for Exceptional Service of the Smithsonian Institution in 1997.
He has served on committees of the National Research Council, the Advisory Board of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis and the Science Commission of the Smithsonian Institution. Founded in 1908, the Paleontological Society is an international nonprofit organization devoted to the advancement of the science of paleontology.