Institute of Ecology professor to receive Senior Researcher Prigogine Medal in recognition of UGA ca

Athens, Ga. – University of Georgia Regent’s Professor Bernard C. Patten will be recognized for his work on nature’s invisible pathways of energy and matter transfer by being named as the recipient of the 2006 Senior Researcher Prigogine Medal, jointly awarded by Siena University, Italy and the Wessex Institute of Technology, United Kingdom. Patten will receive the award and serve as keynote speaker during the Fourth International Conference on Urban Regeneration and Sustainability, July 17-19 in Tallinn, Estonia. Patten has taught and pursued an untraditional kind of ecology known as systems ecology for almost 40 years at the University of Georgia’s Institute of Ecology.

Patten said this award, named for Belgian thermodynamicist and Nobel-laureate Ilya Prigogine, “recognizes our work in developing a mathematical system theory of the environment. Many students and others contributed, and I’ve been the glue in the process, more like the conductor of a chamber orchestra than an instrumentalist.”

Patten’s publications include eight books, approximately 175 technical papers, and various other printed works on marine, freshwater and wetland ecosystems, in addition to the environmental system theory itself.

Institute director Alan Covich said of the theory, “It uses network mathematics to analyze and represent energy flows in food webs and nutrient cycling in biogeochemical processes. The approach is gaining widespread use by many ecologists around the world in studies of the direct and indirect relationships among species and their environments.”

Patten sees this kind of research as fundamental to a future science of ecology capable of understanding biospheric complexity and humanity’s place within this.

“The Prigogine Medal is awarded for his leadership in fostering the systems ecology program’s many contributions to ecological modeling and network analysis, especially as applied to resolving complex problems related to human impacts on the globe,” Covich said.

Patten feels it is significant that academia still supports reflective thought and inquiry for their own sake, without the need to justify research in terms of social or economic outcomes.

“Our longstanding investigation into the meaning of environment has value in and of itself in providing new perspectives on the nature of collective life on the globe,” Patten said. “Who knows where such work will lead? Awe and inspiration gained in the quest to be where no one has been before, and communicating this to the young is pretty important, isn’t it?”