Ecological Society of America honors UCLA Professor of Sri Lankan origin

Priyanga Amarasekare of UCLA College. Photo: Kavan Wijeratne courtesy

Priyanga Amarasekare, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California Los Angeles 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, the University said in an April 28, 2022 press release.

Amarasekare’s work “is simultaneously broad and deep and has important effects on every area it touches, from coexistence theory to climate change,” the ESA is quoted saying in the press release.

“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,” the Ecological Society of America added.

Amarasekare, who is of Sri Lankan origin, focuses on the ecology and evolution of species interactions in variable environments in her research. 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,” UCLA said.

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.




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