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University of Wisconsin-Madison limnologist earns global recognition

Published On: 3/27/2011

Dr. Stephen Carpenter of the University of Wisconsin-Madison was awarded the 2011 Stockholm Water Prize for his research into lake ecosystems.

The Stockholm Water Prize award was announced in Cape Town, South Africa on March 22 during the eighteenth annual World Water Day.

“Professor Carpenter has shown outstanding leadership in setting the ecological research agenda, integrating it into a socio-ecological context, and in providing guidance for the management of aquatic resources,” the Stockholm Water Prize Nominating Committee wrote in a press release.

Carpenter is the director of the Center for Limnology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Stephen Alfred Forbes Professor of Zoology. He is a member of the U.S. Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
In the late 1970s, Carpenter published papers as a gradate student on the aquatic ecosystem of Lake Wingra, a small lake near the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He later returned to the university in 1989 to take a position as a zoology professor, where he led the North Temperate Lakes Long-Term Ecological Research program from 1999-2009.

Carpenter’s work bridges academic disciplines in the science and policy arenas. He is well-known for his studies of food chains and water-land interactions in lake ecosystems. His research has focused on how nutrient cycles and fish populations affect freshwater quality and biological systems. Three decades into his career, Carpenter is now concerned with larger questions about global food security and how to build social and political institutions resilient to anomalous, systematic shocks, such as the recent spikes in food prices. These concerns led Carpenter to serve as co-chair of the Scenarios Working Group of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment from 2000-2005. One of Carpernter's current collaborations, with the International Council of Science, is looking for ways to feed the anticipated 9 billion people that will inhabit the planet, while maintaining freshwater quality.
“We have an obligation to carry those people into the future,” Carpenter said. “We’re not doing well on 7 billion, and scaling up to 9 billion presents a challenge.”

Founded in 1991, the Stockholm Water Prize is awarded annually by the Stockholm International Water Institute to a person or organization for outstanding work on water issues. The winner is announced in March in conjunction with World Water Day. The prize—$150,000 and a crystal sculpture—will be presented on August 25 by King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden during World Water Week in Stockholm.

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