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Stanford Professor Harold Mooney to receive 2000 Nevada Medal

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Feb. 1, 2000

Stanford Biologist Harold A. Mooney, internationally recognized for his pioneering role in developing the field of plant physiological ecology, will receive the Desert Research Institute's 2000 Nevada Medal. The medal will be formally presented by Nevada Governor Kenny Guinn in ceremonies in Reno March 28 and in Las Vegas March 30.

DRI President Stephen G. Wells said Mooney's research established new conceptual approaches for analyzing how plants and plant communities respond to their environment, and provided a direct method of understanding environmental change and the impacts of natural and human influences. In recent years, Mooney has provided leadership to the global scientific community in providing scientific guidance in the formulation of environmental policies, particularly in the areas of biodiversity and global climate change.

Professor Mooney developed methodologies for conducting environmental research that are reflected in many of the practices in use at DRI today, Wells said. He is also widely recognized for building bridges among various fields such as ecology, economics, and atmospheric sciences, as well as encouraging a global perspective on natural systems, essential in the study of complex environmental topics.

Notable among Mooney research achievements was a clear demonstration of the process of convergent evolution, the tendency of plants from different origins and ecosystems to exhibit similar characteristics when influenced by similar environmental stresses. His studies of Mediterranean-type climates around the world concluded that the similarities produced by convergent evolution reflect the limited options available for plants to exploit the resources in any environment. This concept provided an important organizing principle for conducting environmental research and analyses and also has tremendous implications for how to best breed agricultural plants with the necessary characteristics to thrive in harsh environments.

Mooney, who is the Paul S. Achilles Professor of Environmental Biology at Stanford, is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and past president of the Ecological Society of America and the American Institute of Biological Sciences. His research has earned him the Ecological Society's Mercer Award and Eminent Ecologist Award, and Germany's Max Planck Research Award and Humboldt Senior Distinguished Scientist Award, among others.

While a Ph.D. student at Duke University, Mooney studied under the late Dr. W. Dwight Billings, the recipient of the second Nevada Medal in 1989, and a former University of Nevada professor who is acknowledged as the father of the field of plant physiological ecology. Mooney's own students and post-doctoral associates are now recognized leaders across a wide range of the ecological science community.

The Nevada Medal award includes a minted pure silver medallion and $10,000 prize sponsored by the shareholders of Nevada Bell. Award activities will include public lectures at the DRI campuses in Las Vegas and Reno and interaction with scientists from DRI and the Reno and Las Vegas campuses of the University of Nevada.