Editor’s note: This was updated April 28, 2022, to clarify the name of the award.
Priyanga Amarasekare, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the UCLA College, has received the Robert H. MacArthur Award from the Ecological Society of America. The award is given to a midcareer ecologist for outstanding contributions to the field. It is given to one person every two years.
Amarasekare’s work “is simultaneously broad and deep and has important effects on every area it touches, from coexistence theory to climate change,” according to the society. “Like Robert MacArthur, she has demonstrated exceptional ability in identifying maximally simple, yet not simplistic, models to achieve new insights on important ecological problems. She is able to see patterns or problems in nature and build models that unravel and explain those observations mechanistically and elegantly, and in the context of evolution.”
Amarasekare’s research focuses on the ecology and evolution of species interactions in variable environments. She is widely recognized for making fundamental advances in the field while tackling and solving important practical problems, using an integrative approach to strike a balance between mathematical tractability, biological realism and societal importance.
Her research has been cited more than 12,000 times since she earned her doctorate in 1998. In the past five years, she has earned more than $1.7 million in research grants from the National Science Foundation and the James S. McDonnell Foundation. Her awards and honors include a 2021 John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship.