June 14, 2012

Prestigious Award Given to CTFS-SIGEO Associate Researcher Nate Swenson for Promising Research on Species Distributions

Nate Swenson, Assistant Professor at the Department of Plant Biology, Michigan State University and CTFS-SIGEO Associate Researcher has been awarded this year’s €30,000 Ebbe Nielsen Prize, funded by the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). Swenson’s research will contribute to a better understanding of how plants respond to climate change.

The Ebbe Nielsen Prize, named in memory of the Danish-Australian scientist whose work helped to inspire GBIF and who died shortly before its establishment, is awarded annually to researchers in the early stages of their careers who combine biosystematics and biodiversity informatics research in novel ways. Swenson’s research will use data published through GBIF and data from the iPlant Tree of Life program for a large-scale analysis to study the evolution of climatic niches in plants. The analysis will be carried out jointly with Dr. Jens-Christian Svenning (the 2011 Ebbe Nielsen Prize winner) and the Ecoinformatics and Biodiversity Groups at the Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University, Denmark. In a statement submitted during his nomination, Swenson says, “We could quantify how quickly or slowly climatic niches evolve in seed plants. The findings would have direct implications for our understanding of how plants may or may not respond to temporal changes in global climate.”

CTFS-SIGEO Associate Researcher Nate Swenson
Speaking about Swenson’s selection, the chair of the GBIF Science Committee, Leonard Krishtalka, said, “The GBIF Science Committee recognized Swenson’s innovative research and informatics tools that deploy biodiversity data – the kind provided globally by GBIF – to better understand the interaction between climate dynamics and complex ecological and evolutionary mechanisms. Ultimately, his work serves science and society, and advances biodiversity informatics to inform environmental analyses and policy.”

The Global Biodiversity Information Facility was established by governments in 2001 to encourage free and open access to biodiversity data, via the Internet. Through a global network of countries and organizations, GBIF promotes and facilitates the mobilization, access, discovery, and use of information about the occurrence of organisms over time and across the planet.