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Alumnus receives lifetime conservation achievement award

William Schlesinger

William Schlesinger, Ph.D. '76, recently was recognized for a career devoted to conservation and climate change research.

Schlesinger, president of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, N.Y., received the Renewable Natural Resources Foundation's (RNRF) Sustained Achievement Award, which recognizes an individual's long-term contribution and commitment to the protection and conservation of natural resources. The award will be presented Nov. 3, in Potomac, Md.

Schlesinger visited Cornell in March this year as chair of the Cornell Center for a Sustainable Future's external assessment committee to provide an independent evaluation the center's accomplishments since its inception in 2007 and to identify areas of opportunity to increase the impact and visibility of Cornell in sustainability science and scholarship.

"Schlesinger and the committee were very thorough and knowledgeable," said Frank DiSalvo, CCSF's director. "Their assessment helped us immensely and has guided us in establishing a vision for the future," he added.

Schlesinger, professor emeritus of biogeochemistry at Duke University and former dean of Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences, focused his academic work on global change ecology, including chemical changes in the environment, especially soils, that relate to changes in global climate and desertification. The author or co-author of more than 200 scientific papers, his work has included investigations into how entire forest ecosystems (vegetation and soils) may respond to increased carbon dioxide levels and how desert ecosystems might react to global change.

Schlesinger authored the widely used textbook "Biogeochemistry: An Analysis of Global Change"; is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1995) and the National Academy of Sciences (2003); served as president of the Ecological Society of America (2003-04); and has testified before U.S. House and Senate committees on a variety of environmental issues, including preservation of desert habitats and global climate change.

RNRF is a nonprofit foundation that serves as a consortium of scientific, professional and education organizations whose primary purpose is to advance and apply science, and educate the public, in managing and conserving renewable natural resources.