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Joseph Leidy Award Goes to a Stony Brook Evolutionary Biologist

September 13, 2012

Dr. Douglas J. Futuyma, distinguished professor of ecology and evolution at the State University of New York at Stony Brook
Dr. Douglas J. Futuyma, distinguished professor of ecology and evolution at the State University of New York at Stony Brook

A leading evolutionary biologist whose textbooks on evolution are widely read by college students around the country will receive the prestigious Joseph Leidy Award, the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University announced today.

Dr. Douglas J. Futuyma, distinguished professor of ecology and evolution at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, was chosen not only for his body of research, but also for his keen ability to communicate complex ideas to scientists, students and the general public. Futuyma is the author of undergraduate textbooks, including Evolutionary Biology, Evolution and Science on Trial: The Case for Evolution, all of which have set the standard for evolutionary education.

“Dr. Futuyma is widely known for his ability to communicate the vast and complex knowledge of evolutionary biology to both seasoned scientists and students just beginning their college studies,” said Academy President and CEO George W. Gephart, Jr.

“He’s a broad thinker who truly revels in the joy of life's diversity and the teaching and study of evolutionary biology,” said Academy Chaplin Chair and Curator of Ichthyology Dr. John Lundberg, who served on the committee which selected the Stony Brook professor.

Futuyma will receive the award in a public ceremony on Thursday, Oct. 11, the opening day of a two-day symposium at the Academy and on the Drexel University campus. The symposium, “Biodiversity: From Evolutionary Origins to Ecosystems Function,” will explore current and future research on the diversity of life with a focus on evolutionary biology, ecology and environmental quality.

Futuyma will deliver the keynote address, “Explaining Biodiversity: The Impending Synthesis,” following the award presentation at 5:30 p.m. The talk and a reception afterward is open to the public. The fee is $10; Academy members are free. To register for the talk and reception, visit

A professor at Stony Brook since 1969, Futuyma also served as a professor and chair of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, from 2002-04. He has had many visiting professor appointments in the U.S. and abroad.

In addition to his teaching career, he has conducted extensive research and published many scholarly papers on the evolutionary relationships of insects to their plant hosts. He is a research associate at the American Museum of Natural History in New York and served as president of the Society for the Study of Evolution, the American Society of Naturalists, and the American Institute of Biological Sciences. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1996 and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 2006.

The Academy, the nation’s oldest natural history museum, established the Joseph Leidy Award in 1923 to recognize excellence in publications, explorations, discoveries or research in the natural sciences. Leidy was a leading 19th-century anatomist, paleontologist, parasitologist and Academy president.

Futuyma joins a distinguished list of previous Leidy Award recipients including Academy ornithologist James Bond (1975), biologist Dr. Edward O. Wilson (1979), evolutionary biologists Drs. Peter and Rosemary Grant (1995), and Australian conservationist Dr. Tim Flannery (2010).

About the Symposium

Describing and recording the world’s biodiversity and determining its evolutionary history and ecology is a continual process that is far from complete. Speakers at the symposium on Oct. 11 and 12, will discuss new and innovative uses of museum collections to acquire more knowledge. They also will describe new approaches for determining the evolutionary origins and relationships of diverse groups of organisms. To register for the symposium, visit