The Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography presents the G. Evelyn Hutchinson Award each year to a limnologist or oceanographer who has made considerable contributions to knowledge, and whose future work promises a continued legacy of scientific excellence. The 2021 Hutchinson Award will be presented to Dr. Elena Litchman, Professor of Aquatic Ecology at Michigan State University’s W.K. Kellogg Biological Station and Department of Integrative Biology. Dr. Litchman will receive the award at the 2021 ASLO Aquatic Sciences Virtual Meeting in June.
Dr. Litchman is perhaps best known for her seminal work developing a “trait-based approach” for the study of plankton ecology. Application of the trait-based framework, originally described in terrestrial plant ecology, to phytoplankton community dynamics has been transformational for the field. Litchman’s 2007 and 2008 papers, which were the first to describe the trait-based approach for phytoplankton communities, have been collectively cited more than 1,000 times. Since then, Litchman has seamlessly integrated observational, experimental, and theoretical methods and approaches to understanding plankton community structure and function across freshwater and marine environments. Litchman continues to apply this framework to answer important questions in phytoplankton ecology, such as impacts of climate change on communities, with a research program that is both highly collaborative and international in nature.
In addition to having an impressive body of influential literature, Dr. Litchman is involved in several large-scale projects and initiatives both in the U.S. and abroad. She sits on several advisory boards, including Denmark’s Centre for Ocean Life and AQUACOSM, the European Network of Mesocosm Facilities. Litchman has also been honored with the US NSF CAREER Award (2009), PECASE Award (2010), MSU Foundation Professorship (2016) and the Petersen Foundation Excellence Professorship Award, Germany (2017).
ASLO President, Roxane Maranger notes, “Displaying exceptional depth and breadth in her scientific endeavours, Dr. Litchman exemplifies a highly impactful and seasoned mid-career aquatic scientist. Perhaps most impressive has been her ability to cross scientific boundaries, including the fresh-salty divide. Her leading-edge work on using a functional trait approach in aquatic ecosystems has inspired an entire direction of research to better understand the relationship between planktonic community structure and major biogeochemical cycles.”