New Haven, Conn. – A renowned scholar on the effects of acid rain on forests and a graduate of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies will receive the Wilbur Lucius Cross Medal, Yale’s highest graduate alumni honor.
John Aber, University Professor and Provost at the University of New Hampshire, will receive the award at a private dinner with President Richard Levin and other Yale officials on Thursday, Oct. 11, that will also honor Yale alumni Alfred McCoy, Jonathan Rothberg and Sarah Grey Thomason.
As part of the festivities, Aber will discuss “Thinking Like an Ecosystem: From Forests and Pastures, to the Globe,” at noon in Kroon Hall at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.
A professor of natural resources, he has focused his research on sustainable ecosystem management, studying native forest ecosystems, managed woodlots and pastures. He founded a campus-wide Ph.D. program in natural resources at the University of New Hampshire, and directs a program at the nation’s first commercial-scale organic dairy research farm.
In 1971 he received an undergraduate degree from Yale in computer science (artificial intelligence), but in his junior year felt that the field was becoming irrelevant to him. “Earth Day focused my life,” he said later. “I switched to environmental sciences and enrolled at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.”
He went on to receive a master’s in 1973 and a Ph.D. in 1976, but his career was set when the late Herb Bormann, an ecology professor at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and one of the first to document the acid rain threat, asked him if he wanted to conduct his research at Hubbard Brook. “That was perhaps the most important turning point of all.”
Since then, he has authored or co-authored more than 200 scientific papers, and in 2003 he was cited as one of the top 10 scientists in the field of ecology and environmental science by the Institute for Scientific Information, which measures how frequently a scientist’s work is cited by other researchers.
A principal investigator for the Harvard Forest and Hubbard Brook Long Term Ecological Research sites, he wrote the basic text in his field, Terrestrial Ecosystems. He also is co-editor of Forests in Time: The Environmental Consequences of 100 years of Change in New England (Yale University Press). Choice Magazine selected it as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2005.
The Wilbur Lucius Cross Medal is presented each year by Yale’s graduate school alumni association. The medal recognizes achievements in scholarship, teaching, academic administration and public service. Cross was the first dean of the Yale Graduate School, from 1916 to 1930, and taught at the Sheffield Scientific School, the precursor to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. He was also an English professor at Yale, an author and the 71st governor of Connecticut, serving from 1931 to 1939.