Eric Pianka named 2006 Distinguished Scientist by Texas Academy of Science

April 5, 2006

AUSTIN, Texas—Eric Pianka, the Denton A. Cooley Centennial Professor of integrative biology, was recognized as the 2006 Distinguished Scientist by the Texas Academy of Science (TAS) for his distinguished career and numerous seminal contributions to the discipline of ecology.

Eric Pianka
Dr. Eric Pianka
Photo: Marsha Miller

In recognition of this honor, Pianka gave a lecture during the TAS meeting in Beaumont, Texas on March 3. Pianka’s talk focused on the threat that human overpopulation poses to the delicate web of life on Earth. He cautioned that a serious epidemic could lead to a reduction in human population.

Pianka suggested that the rapidly growing human population, with its sociality and mobility, has created an environment in which viruses and bacteria can prosper and threaten a worldwide pandemic.

“I don’t mean any ill will toward humanity,” says Pianka, “but I do think that we need to decrease our population in order to live more sustainably on this Earth. We need to make a transition to a sustainable world. If we don’t, nature is going to do it for us in ways of her own choosing. By definition, these ways will not be ours, and they won’t be much fun.”

Pianka, a lizard ecologist, began his career 40 years ago when he produced the first synthetic review of latitudinal gradients in species diversity. He came to The University of Texas at Austin in 1968.

Pianka has invented many new ecological study techniques and concepts, and his publications are widely cited. He has contributed to the field of ecology in the areas of foraging theory, reproductive tactics, species diversity and community structure, to name a few.

Pianka’s classic textbook, “Evolutionary Ecology,” is now in its sixth edition and has been translated in Greek, Japanese, Polish, Russian and Spanish. He has published several other significant books, including an autobiography, “The Lizard Man Speaks,” and “Lizards: Windows to the Evolution of Diversity,” coauthored with Dr. Laurie Vitt and winner of the Robert W. Hamilton Book award in 2005.

The purpose of the Texas Academy of Science is to promote scientific research among the colleges and universities of the State of Texas, to promote undergraduate research and to enhance the professional development of its members.

For more information contact: Lee Clippard, College of Natural Sciences, 512-232-0675.