Ribosome adventures

Venki Ramakrishnan, 'My adventures in the ribosome'


Venkataraman “Venki” Ramakrishnan’s story is the stuff of fiction. He went from an eager undergraduate student in India to a self-described “failed physicist” to a major player in the race to uncover one of biology’s biggest mysteries—the structure of the ribosome, the most important molecule that nobody’s heard of that earned him a Nobel Prize in chemistry in 2009.

The opportunity to research the ribosome drew Ramakrishnan to the University of Utah in the late ‘90s. The ancient molecule brings him back as a Nobel laureate to discuss his “Adventures in the Ribosome” at the College of Science’s Frontiers of Science Lecture Series on Sept. 26, at the Natural History Museum of Utah. The evening should be enthralling—his popular memoir Gene Machine reads like a thriller that navigates inspired collaborations, friendly rivalries, and cutthroat competition behind scientific discoveries and international accolades.

“Why did my career work out? I didn’t go to any famous schools for my undergrad or graduate school, and I was sort of an outsider most of my life. I think there’s some sort of general lessons there,” Ramakrishnan said. “One of them is if you find things don’t work out, you have to be open to change.”

Ramakrishnan has never been afraid of change. He earned a PhD in theoretical physics at the University of Ohio, but immediately realized that developing theories and mathematical calculations wasn’t for him. The field of biology grabbed his attention.

“Every issue of Scientific American when I was a grad student was full of big breakthroughs in biology. That was a time when the first sequences of DNA were being reported, Ramakrishnan said. “Biology was going through this huge revolution, and it hasn’t stopped.”


Read the full story by David Pace and Lisa Potter in @TheU.
Read more about the Ribosome exhibit, in conjunction with Ramakrishnan lecture, at the Natural History Museum of Utah. 


Climate-Resilient Western Grid

Gird YOUR Grid


The Western Interconnected Grid, commonly known as “the Western Interconnection,” is one of the two major interconnected power grids in North America.

The "Western Interconnection," as it is called, stretches from the northern edge of British Columbia, Canada to the border of Baja, Mexico, and from the California coast to the Rockies, and serves roughly 80 million people over 1.8 million square miles across two Canadian provinces and fourteen western states in the United States.  It is the backbone of one of the largest regional economic engines in the world.

On September 18th it was announced that  through  $5M funding by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and $3.75M funding by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the University of Utah and University of Calgary will establish and co-lead the U.S.-Canada Center on Climate-Resilient Western Interconnected Grid.

Masood Parvania, associate professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Utah’s John and Marcia Price College of Engineering will co-lead the center along with Hamid Zareipour, professor of Electrical and Software Engineering at the University of Calgary’s Schulich School Engineering.

“Our center is being established at a critical time when the region is experiencing more frequent and severe extreme weather disturbances such as wildfires, heatwaves, drought, and flooding, the impacts of which not only pose threats to human health and the environment but also affect the ability of the western interconnection to continue powering the communities,” says Parvania.

At the University of Utah, the center involves co-principal investigators Valerio Pascucci, professor at the Scientific Computing and Imaging Institute and Kahlert School of Computing, William Andregg, director of the Wilkes Center for Climate Science and Policy, and Divya Chandrasekhar, associate professor in the Department of City and Metropolitan Planning in the College of Architecture and Planning, among multiple other partners and faculty.

Read the full story from the John & Marcia Price College of Engineering website.

More about this story from Brian Maffly in @TheU

Whale of a project: Library digitizes 50 years of research

Library digitizes 50 years of Patagonia research


Each spring, southern right whales congregate off the coast of Patagonia, Argentina. In the protected bays created by PenínsulaValdés, females calve and raise their young during their first three months of life.

Throughout their 60-plus years of life, the females return to this spot about once every three years. Distinct growths on their head called callosities allow researchers to visually identify individual whales and collect data on them over their lifetime.

In 1971, Victoria Rowntree, now a University of Utah biology research professor, joined head researcher Roger Payne on a trip to his newly discovered research site in South America. “I had previously worked for Roger at Rockefeller University and when he and his family went to Argentina for a year, he said ‘hey Vick, you should come down here—it’s incredible,’” Rowntree said. “And so I did. I’ve been working on identifying and following the lives of individual right whales ever since.”

Marriott Library

At that time, most of what was known about large whales had been gained from the whalers that harvested them. As a behaviorist, Payne wanted to observe the whales over their lives and learn about things such as how often they calved and how they interacted with their environment and each other. He realized that the unique patterns of callosities on their heads provided a way to identify them as individuals throughout their lives.

When the Patagonia right whale project began, Payne and his team used a small plane to aerially document the whales with film photography. Initially, this film was developed in a dark room set up at the research camp. A head catalog was created that organized known whales by the number, shape and placement of their markings, to make it easier to determine whether a whale had been previously identified. By the early ’80s, hundreds of individual whales were known and the sheer number of images was becoming unwieldy.

Technological innovations continually changed the work. For example, when digital photography became available, the researchers shifted to that method of documentation in 2005. In the late 1990s, the project switched from researchers having to physically match the whales with those in the head catalog to using a computerized system that suggested likely matches. Creating the digital catalog required only a few of the best images of each known whale, which meant the vast majority of the data collected before 2005 only existed as physical slides.

To read the full story about how Rowntree's research is being digitized by the Marriott Library, read the article by Mattie Mortensen. 

Right Whale Research, Vicky Rowntree

Doing Right By right whaleS


More than 50 years ago, Victoria Rowntree, research professor of biology at the University of Utah, was invited by the animal behaviorist Roger Payne to visit his then-new right-whale research project at Península Valdés (PV) in Patagonia, Argentina.

Victoria Rowntree, in the field. Banner photo: Instituto de Conservación de Ballenas

Payne was already famous for discovering (together with his wife Katy Payne) the “Songs of the Humpback Whale” – probably the most famous nature album in history.  A few years later Rowntree joined the right-whale project as a full-time researcher and began a long career during which she played leading roles in shaping, and then sustaining, what has become the most important study of its kind.

Rowntree has always had a passion for animals. Initially she wanted to become a veterinarian, but shifted her focus after Payne, her animal behavior professor at Tufts University, asked if she wouldn’t rather study healthy animals in the wild. After graduating, Rowntree worked with Payne on a barn owl echolocation project at Rockefeller University in New York before returning to Massachusetts and working with C.R. Taylor at Harvard’s Concord Field Station for five years.

At the Museum, Rowntree was responsible for performing experiments in which  various species of animals were run on treadmills while researchers recorded their oxygen consumption and heat balance. The subjects included chimpanzees, lion cubs, cheetahs and even an ostrich. These experiments resulted in landmark animal exercise physiology papers with Rowntree as one of the authors.

Despite her success as a researcher, Rowntree didn’t enjoy the work she was doing, she says, “... because you have to know the extremes… It wasn’t for me.” Instead, she wanted to observe animals in their natural habitats. “It’s just fun watching any animal for a long time, one that’s not in an aquarium, but out in the ocean.”

By this time, Payne was back in the Boston area and the PV right whale project was beginning to take shape.  Rowntree asked Payne whether she could join the small team of researchers who were building a “catalog” of individually recognized whales. He immediately said yes.

Giant Sea Creatures

When the PV right whale project began, little was known about the giant sea creatures which average 43 to 56 feet in length and weigh up to 176,000 pounds. Biologists weren’t sure exactly how often female whales bore calves because any prior knowledge came from whalers studying the placental scars in the wombs of whales they had killed. (Though now contested, right whales were named so because they were the “right” whales to kill.) Inspired by the British ethologist Jane Goodall and other researchers who were closely observing animals in the wild, Payne realized that tracking the lives of individual whales, especially reproducing females in their natural habitat for long periods of time, was likely key to understanding their reproduction, ecology and demographics.

Southern Right Whale. NOAA fisheries

Each year, in the months of July through October, southern right whales (Eubalaena australis) arrive at bays on the shores of PV to calve and raise their young in the safety of the shallow waters. Cliffs along the coast provide excellent locations to observe the whales and photo-identify individuals, the primary method of data collection for this project. “Roger realized that repeated photo-identification of individual whales would allow the population size and birth intervals and other important demographic parameters to be estimated,” says U Emeritus Professor of biology Jon Seger, Rowntree’s husband and frequent research collaborator.

What Rowntree and her colleagues look for are distinctive patterns in the whale’s callosities: rough patches of thickened skin on the whale’s head. Within the circles of callus tissue are sensory hairs that may help the whales find their prey. Callosites appear white against the whale's black skin and are covered with living blankets of light-bodied crustacean passengers or “whale lice."

Using photos of the whale’s heads, Rowntree and her colleagues have identified more than 4,000 individuals to date; many have been seen over spans of two-to-five decades and in many different years, with and without calves.

A half century of data

Hovering drone over a right whale. Instituto de Conservación de Ballenas

As Rowntree and her team were observing the changes in the right whale population in Patagonia, they were constantly improving the technology they used to document the animals. Beginning in 1971, annual photographic surveys were conducted by flying along the perimeter of the Peninsula in a light plane which would circle low over groups of whales while a photographer snapped frames on 35mm black-and-white film. Later the National Geographic Society got involved and provided 35mm color film and processing. Finally, in 2005, the team made a long-anticipated move to digital cameras.

Today, quadcopter drones are primarily used to photograph the whales. With a drone, researchers can hover over the water and wait for whales to surface directly below, as opposed to flying in slow, tight circles over the water, hoping to be above a whale when it finally surfaces to breathe.

The wide range data forms posed a challenge for ongoing work. When Rowntree moved to Utah, she found herself managing five filing cabinets with tens of thousands of 35mm film photos covering the first 34 years of the project. At  risk of fire or other disasters, the collection had limited access, especially for her Argentine colleagues. Now, with the help of a grant from the Committee on Library Information Resources, the U’s Marriott Library, has digitized the irreplaceable foundation of the project’s ever-growing database for scientists worldwide which, among quality-check assignments by scientists will also prove helpful in the development of artificial intelligence software to automate individual whale identification. (Read the story about this digitization project.)

Tourist whale watching

Instituto de Conservación de Ballenas

When the PV right whale project began, there was only one whale watching company at Valdes Peninsula, now there are five. The research project has drawn exponential numbers of tourists worldwide to the area, as there is no other place to predictably see whales up close in their natural habitat. “This study contributes hugely to it [tourism] because of the added value for the tourists going out on a boat,” Seger says.“There’s a naturalist [on board] who knows all this stuff.”

News about the right whales is a source of pride and joy for Argentines. Media regularly contact the research team and ask for stories about the whales to share broadly. Rowntree adds, “...we have these whale nights with the whale-watch operators in a room not big enough to hold it, and people are all sitting around on the edge. The captains report what they've seen and what the researchers have learned and what science has gone on… .” These packed community presentations are fueled by empanadas and extend well into the early morning hours.

At its core, the PV right whale project is a labor of love from local students. “Vicky saw early on,” says Seger, “that these wonderful young college-age volunteers who would show up to work for a few weeks should be raising their sights and thinking about getting Ph.D.s and starting their own research projects. Now," continues Seger,  “… five or six have come to the States for graduate study with Vicky's encouragement and help in finding labs."

Two of these students earned their Ph.D.s at the U, and most are now faculty at different Argentine universities. They and their volunteers and students are now responsible for most of the front-line research work and represent the PV right whales nationally and internationally. The project is now directed by the Instituto de Conservación de Ballenas, an Argentine non-profit founded in the 1990s, in collaboration with the American non-profit Ocean Alliance, which was founded by Payne in the 1970s.

A living legacy

With the digitization the project’s analog photos and supporting data, Seger stresses that “this isn’t just a historical archive of some wonderful study that’s now fading back into the mists of history. It’s an ongoing research project that we all want to go on for another 50 years, at least.” As data accumulate each year, they show more and more clearly how the PV right whale population has continued to grow, despite serious ecological challenges.

The involvement and education of local students are crucial for the longevity of the project because, Rowntree says, “... [T]hey’re the ones that can affect the conservation of the right whales… .” In addition to keeping the research project running, these young advocates  represent their population at International Whaling Commission meetings and influence policy changes that will conserve whales and their marine habitats.

This living body of right whale research  grows year-to-year and will continue to illuminate a wide variety of basic scientific and urgent practical issues such as the effects of climate change and increasing commercial boat traffic.  Far from a relic, the research gets its power directly from its continuity, which has been sustained in large part by Victoria Rowntree’s unflagging curiosity and dedication over half a century.

By Lauren Wigod
Science Writer Intern

Andy Thliveris: Remember the Undergrads

Andy Thliveris: 'Remember the Undergrads'


In December 2022, Andrew Thliveris BS’83 made a special trip to Salt Lake City with his wife Lauren. They joined the School of Biological Sciences in a belated (due to the pandemic) remembrance of K. Gordon Lark who had passed away more than two-and-a-half years earlier in April 2020.

Vice Chair and Ophthalmology Residency Training Program Director at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, Thliveris, until his retirement in September, was also Chief of Ophthalmology at the W.S. Middleton VA and holds the rank of Professor at the School of Medicine in Madison. At the event “Andy” remembered that as an undergraduate he worked in the Lark lab for five years and that Lark had a profound impact on him. “He changed my life,” reported Thliveris whose main message to the faculty and friends who had gathered was “Remember the undergraduate students.”

Thliveris also surprised many by announcing that through his affiliation with the Carl Berg Foundation he had arranged to fully fund the Lark Endowed Chair with a check for $430,000. The Lark fund was established in 2017, followed in July 2022 with a campaign to “re-boot.” The ambition was to achieve the level of endowed professorship through an anonymous, matching donation of $250,000. But with Thliveris’ brokered gift—added to many others from generous individual donors—the K. Gordon Lark Endowment was elevated to the more prestigious level of endowed chair.

'Get this guy under control'

K. Gordon Lark. Credit: Ben Okun

With his characteristic humor, Thliveris was eager to recall his time in Lark’s lab.  He confessed to being that “pesky nerdy undergrad, high-maintenance, known to call Gordon at 11 pm on several occasions, [until] finally, Gordon, then speaking to his post-doc Paul Keim, [said], ‘You’ve got to get this guy under control because I have no idea what the hell I told him last night.’”

Lark wasn’t the only one who mentored, managed and otherwise inspired that “pesky” undergrad. Addressing Nobel laureate and Lark colleague Mario Capecchi who was at the event as well, Thliveris remembered how “you spent many hours with me in your office when you taught biochemistry. I was always in there.” He also recalled Baldomero “Toto” Olivera and his amazing cone snails which would later prove critical in the advance of alternatives to opioid pain relievers, as well as the late Naomi Franklin who helped bring sequencing to Lark’s lab and its occupants.

Regarding Martin “Marty” Rechsteiner, now in the U’s  Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine, Thliveris recounted his professor “who on the first day of his class of trembling undergrads told us that if we memorized every word out of this mouth then we might just pass his class.”

Clearly, Thiliveris’ sojourn at the U as an undergraduate where he majored in biology and geology & geophysics, and later attended the U’s medical school where he earned his MD, prepared him well. Following his ophthalmology residency at Wisconsin in 1998, he was a postdoctoral research fellow as a launch to his auspicious 28-year career. After joining the faculty in 2000, he took on the position of Veterans Affairs Hospital service chief and later, in 2014, vice chair of resident education and residency director  — roles he held until his retirement and during which time he trained countless physicians, including many of the department’s own faculty.

'Ball of energy'

At the announcement of his retirement, Thilveris said, “Our residents are beyond amazing, and the dedication from the faculty to our program has made short work for our education team. We have a very proud tradition here and are poised to continue for generations to come.” In hearing the news, many in Wisconsin responded with memories of his meticulous teaching, patience, wisdom, and, of course, his delightful sense of humor.

“I am beyond grateful to Andy for his role in my own training and in my recruitment back to UW-Madison,” said Evan Warner, MD. “His kindness, openness, and genuine concern for each and every colleague, trainee, and staff member has been foundational to our department culture, and it is such a privilege to be a part of it. As residency program director, he has been a ball of energy with so many ideas and such passion for seeking feedback and making things better for the residents.”

Phaco Course Directors Andrew Thliveris, MD, PhD, Sarah Nehls, MD, and Daniel Knoch, MD. (Photo © Andy Manis)

Thliveris will also be remembered for his work as director of the department’s cataract extraction phacoemulsification course. In this three-year progressive course, medical and veterinary ophthalmology residents, UW and visiting medical students, and pre-residency fellows from around the country learn the latest cataract surgical techniques. Daniel Knoch, MD who will assume the role of veterans affairs service chief following Thliveris' retirement recalled how “There are dozens of residents, numerous faculty, and thousands of patients that Andy has helped through his after-hours videos, toolbox approach to surgical teaching, probing questions, and high standards.” Anna Momont, MD who has assumed the role of ophthalmology residency training program director acknowledged that because of Thliveris’ “unwavering dedication to our residents and their training,” is leaving the department nationally recognized and a “highly sought-after residency program.”

'Full steam ahead'

To recognize Thliveris’ lasting legacy, the department dedicated its new Surgical Skills Training Facility in his honor. The new space, which expands the department’s training capacity by providing 10 training pods, each outfitted with state-of-the art equipment, will be instrumental in training the next generation of eyecare specialists. “While the decision to retire was a very emotional one,” says Thliveris, it comforts me greatly to know that I am leaving things in such capable hands. Full steam ahead.”

Whatever Gordon Lark said during those 11 pm phone calls to Andrew Thliveris must have been spectacular. And now with the K. Gordon Lark Endowed Chair poised to announce its first recipient soon, the undergraduate has made sure the legacy of founder of the School of Biological Sciences will continue.

By David Pace

Read more about Dr. Thliveris' retirement at UW-Madison website from which some of this article and photos were taken.

A warming climate could make cities even less hospitable to wild mammals

urban wildlife In a Warming Climate


Human-driven climate change could worsen the effects of urbanization on native wildlife, suggests new research based on analyses of data recorded by 725  trail cameras set up in and around 20 North America cities, including Utah’s urban areas along the Wasatch Front.


Austin Green, Postdoctoral Fellow in the Science Research Initiative. Camera trap photo above credit: Austin Green.

The main finding was that urbanization’s negative effects on wildlife are tougher on larger-bodied animals and are worse in the less vegetated cities in drier regions, such as Phoenix and Salt Lake City, according to University of Utah wildlife biologist Austin Green, one of the study’s many coauthors.

“Those cities that don’t have as much rainfall have higher average temperatures, the effects that they had on wildlife were greater than in cooler and wetter cities,” Green says.

These findings are based on thousands of photos of wild animals, namely 37 species of native mammals that live in or near cities, ranging from squirrels to black bears. The images were recorded by motion-triggered camera traps operating in the summer of 2019 in places used for outdoor recreation within cities and up to two kilometers beyond the urbanized boundary. To ensure privacy, images of people were automatically deleted by the program that uploaded the photos, according to Green who is aa postdoctoral fellow in the College of Sciences' Science Research Initiative.

Led by Arizona State University biologist Jeffrey Haight, the study published Monday in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.

Haight and collaborators from around the country analyzed data from 725 camera traps to assess the composition of native mammal communities and the relative occupancy of each species. In partnership with the Urban Wildlife Information Network, the team covered Salt Lake City, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay Area, Atlanta and Austin and Edmonton in Canada and 13 other cities in the course of some 20,000 camera days.

Read the full article by Brian Maffly in @TheU.

More about this research from the New York Times.

Finalists vie for historic $1.5M Wilkes Climate Prize

Finalists vie for historic $1.5M Wilkes Climate Prize


A protein-rich bean that evades agricultural emissions? Pepto for cows? Connect the ocean to the power grid? Smart windows on every building? Trees that reduce poverty and save the rainforest?


We need bold thinkers with audacious ideas to help mitigate the impacts of climate change. Often, the most unconventional projects have the hardest time getting funding. At $1.5 million, the Wilkes Center Climate Prizeat the University of Utah is one of the largest university-affiliate climate awards in the world. The Wilkes Center for Climate Science and Policy in the U’s College of Science will administer the prize, funded by a cross-section of Utah-based organizations and industries. A panel of respected climate leaders reviewed 77 international proposals and identified five projects representing the most innovative ideas to address the impacts of climate change. The winner of the historic prize will be announced on Sept. 22, 2023.

“I applaud the inspiring and innovative ideas of all five finalists,” said Peter Trapa, dean of the College of Science. “This out-of-the-box, entrepreneurial thinking is precisely what the Wilkes Center is designed to foster. I am excited for the winning organization to  use the prize funds to advance meaningful solutions to the problems posed by a changing climate.”

Learn more about the Wilkes Climate Prize finalists! Note that all assertions are from presentations made at the Wilkes Climate Summit in May 2023.

Which project would you vote for? Read summaries of all five.

Spiders and Plants, Richard Clark

how spider mites quickly evolve resistance to toxins

Although mites are arthropod-like insects, they have eight legs and are more closely related to ticks, spiders and scorpions. The two-spotted spider mite is tiny, hardly half a millimeter long, and is named for the pair of black spots on either side of its partially translucent body. These spots are actually the digestive contents of its gut.


A ubiquitous inhabitant of greenhouses across the United States, it is equipped with needlelike mouthparts that both pierce and suck nutrients from leaves, leaving them a desiccated shell and killing the plant. They also deposit a silky webbing across the host plant, hence the second half of this mite’s common name.

“Arthropod pests have been responsible for historic famines and food shortages, and continue to impact human welfare today by reducing crop yields. So there’s been an interest in developing plant varieties which are more resistant to insects or mites,” said Clark, a professor in the School of Biological Sciences.

Working with then-U graduate student and lead author Meiyuan Ji, as well as colleagues from Belgium, Clark’s lab identified a mechanism by which spider mites “express” genes involved in the detoxification [inactivation] of xenobiotics, as is commonly observed in pesticide-resistant spider mites, according to research published this month. The findings could help scientists develop more effective ways to control this pest.

Read the full story by Brian Maffly on this research in @TheU. 

What the inspiration for ‘Treetop Barbie’ thought of the ‘Barbie’ movie

What the inspiration for ‘Treetop Barbie’ thought of the ‘Barbie’ movie

The canopy scientist (a.k.a. "TreeTop Barbie") and emerita professor of biology at the University of Utah talks about her unusual connection to the iconic doll.



Nalini Nadkarni, professor emerita of biology at the University of Utah, recently took a trip to the Pacific Northwest — a combined trip for research, visiting friends and making her annual solo backpacking adventure.

There was one more item on Nadkarni’s agenda: Seeing “Barbie,” the hit movie by director Greta Gerwig, based on the long-popular Mattel doll.

“Generally, I felt that it provoked reflections on how we see ourselves and each other; how difficult (perhaps impossible!) it is to define ourselves; and the importance of providing models and choices about our future, without encumbering them with expectations,” Nadkarni wrote in an email. “I felt that many of these messages were presented in the film – not always neatly and coherently, but then, defining oneself is never neat or coherent.”

For Nadkarni, a pioneer in the field of studying the canopies of forests, the connection to a 12-inch plastic figure may not be obvious. It helps to know that when the “Barbie” movie marketing says “she’s everything,” Nadkarni is one of the people who helped make that literally true.

Two decades ago, Nadkarni proposed to Mattel that they create “Treetop Barbie” — a doll with the job of a canopy scientist, a relatively new field at the time. Like Nadkarni, this Barbie would be equipped with the tools necessary to research in the highest part of the forests.

Two decades ago, Nadkarni proposed to Mattel that they create “Treetop Barbie” — a doll with the job of a canopy scientist, a relatively new field at the time. Like Nadkarni, this Barbie would be equipped with the tools necessary to research in the highest part of the forests.

Read the entire article in the Salt Lake Tribune


William Anderegg Receives Blavatnik Award

William Anderegg RECEIVES Blavatnik Award

On July 26, the Blavatnik Family Foundation and the New York Academy of Sciences announced that Dr. William Anderegg is one of three national laureates to receive the 2023 Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists. A video announcing Anderegg’s selection for the Blavatnik Award  is available here.

Dr. Anderegg is an associate professor of Biological Sciences at the U and director of the Wilkes Center for Climate Science & Policy. As the 2023 Laureate in Life Sciences, he is being awarded $250,000 for his work on “revealing how trees absorb and release carbon dioxide amidst a changing climate.” This is the largest unrestricted scientific award for America’s most innovative, faculty-ranked scientists and engineers who are under the age of 42.

Anderegg’s recent publications have examined the interaction of plant ecology and climate change, from the scale of cells to forest ecosystems. Specifically, he addresses how drought and climate change affect Earth’s forests and the manifold benefits they bring to society. His work overturns a 50-year foundational theory on how stomata—pores on leaves that facilitate photosynthesis—behave in order to improve carbon gain and minimize water loss, and in turn, how this affects global forests’ response to climate change.

 As a leading voice in the field of climate change, Anderegg’s discoveries are already informing climate solutions, global policies, and public health. He is the first ever winner of the Blavatnik Regional Awards to be awarded the Blavatnik National Award Laureate. 

 “I am thrilled that our important work continues to be recognized,” said Anderegg. “I hope that our contributions to this field of research can help illuminate the future of Earth’s forests and provide urgently-needed tools to tackle climate change and increase resilience in ecosystems and communities in the US and across the globe.”

 The 2023 Blavatnik National Awards received 267 nominations from 134 institutions in 38 U.S. states. Nominees must be faculty-level scientific researchers, 42 years of age or younger. Three independent juries —one each for life sciences, chemistry, and physical sciences and engineering —were composed of some of America’s most distinguished scientists. The juries selected three winning laureates and 28 finalists.  

The Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists will celebrated the 2023 laureates and finalists in a ceremony on September 19 at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. (See banner photo above: William Anderegg with Sir Leonard Valentinovich Blavatnik)

In April, Anderegg was one of three 2023 recipients of the National Science Foundation’s prestigious Alan T. Waterman Award for his contributions to ecosystem and climate change science.