2018 Ruth Patrick Award Recipient


Margaret Palmer (University of Maryland, College Park)

The Ruth Patrick Award is given to scientists who have made outstanding contributions towards solving environmental problems. ASLO has awarded Dr. Margaret A. Palmer of the University of Maryland, College Park this distinguished honor in recognition for being a champion of solution-driven science for the protection of freshwaters. The award will be presented at the ASLO Summer Meeting in Victoria, British Columbia in June 2018.

From her early, seminal work on habitat heterogeneity at the scale of individual streams to her current work on the consequences of global climate change for freshwaters, Margaret Palmer has demonstrated excellence as a scientist and commitment to outreach with every sector of society. Palmer has authored more than 200 peer-reviewed articles and has served in a variety of leadership roles in the freshwater sciences, including leading the first comprehensive scientific analysis of stream and river restoration that resulted in an open database of ~ 40,000 projects, co-chairing the Hydro-ecology Science Committee for the Design of the National Ecological Observatory Network, and chairing the freshwater section for Diversitas, the former international organization leading the efforts to inform and guide science agendas and public policies related to biodiversity. Her efforts have been recognized with numerous prestigious appointments, board roles and academic honors. She serves on numerous editorial boards including for the journal Science and is a member of the Water Science & Technology Board of the National Academy of Sciences.

Throughout her career, Palmer has been at the forefront of efforts to blur the lines between ecological and social science. A pioneer in the fields of restoration ecology and urban ecology, Palmer seeks to not merely identify the threats to freshwater systems, but to also identify possible solutions. Palmer is the Director of the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC), which seeks to bring together social and environmental scientists to generate “useful science” by synthesizing research on the nation’s most pressing environmental problems and providing the tools necessary to communicate that in increasingly effective ways to policymakers and the public.

Margaret Palmer has been at the forefront of the charge for environmental scientists to move out of the ivory tower and into public debate. Leading by example, Palmer has demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to “science in service to society”. Nowhere is this dedication more evident than in her efforts to educate the public and decision makers about the impacts of mountaintop mining on streams. She has spent thousands of hours in courtrooms, formal congressional briefings, meetings with individual members of Congress and their staff, meetings with top EPA administrators, and even an appearance on the late night TV show “The Colbert Report”. Colleagues credit Palmer’s “relentless” efforts in serving as an expert witness as critical in the effort to stop destructive mountaintop mining practices: “Margaret not only helped develop the science that drove those cases, [but, she] in effect, taught that science to courts over many years.” Her efforts extend beyond the courtroom: Palmer has written several articles for trade organizations and has co-taught a stream ecology class for natural resource managers, restoration practitioners and federal agency staff that has engaged nearly 150 professionals.

“Margaret Palmer has taken one the most difficult approaches to ‘making science matter’ by taking the giant and uncomfortable leap from the research arena to the courtroom, all the while maintaining a leadership position in the aquatic sciences. Her dedication, passion and drive are inspiring and make her an excellent recipient of the Ruth Patrick Award,” said ASLO President Linda Duguay.

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