Joining the ranks of animal behaviorist Jane Goodall and author Jared Diamond, two conservation scientists have received this year's Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, known as the "Nobel of environmental awards."
As Americans celebrate Earth Day today by collecting trash from local parks and planting trees in their communities, the laureates, Laurie Marker and Stuart Pimm, will speak in Los Angeles about the importance of conservation.
They will deliver public lectures on their work at the University of Southern California.
As the founder of the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia, Marker has worked for more than three decades to save cheetahs from extinction. The group -- established in the country with the largest cheetah population -- educates farmers sharing the cheetah habitat about the need for predators in the ecosystem. Also, the group instituted projects, such as the breeding of guard dogs for livestock herds, that both created jobs and protected farmland.
A conservation ecology professor at Duke University, Pimm's work linking patches of rain forest together in Brazil helped save endangered species, such as the golden lion tamarin. He created "food webs" that helped explain how losses in species diversity could impact members of an ecological community. But perhaps most fascinating, Pimm developed a metric for extinction rates -- a technology that models an endangered population, helping scientists to plan the next steps in their conservation efforts.
"Dr. Marker and Dr. Pimm represent the best among conservationist leaders and possess the unique intersection of superb environmental and biological science with savvy political and advocacy skills," said Owen T. Lind, chair of the prize executive committee and a biology professor at Baylor University. "They are living, breathing heroes of our environment and our animal species on Earth."
The Tyler award, which includes a $200,000 prize, is administered by the University of Southern California.
Image, top: Laurie Marker / By Christophe Lepetit
Image, bottom: Stuart Pimm / By Dr. Rudi van Aarde, University of Pretoria, South Africa