July 13, 2012

Robert J. Naiman earns award for insights into freshwater ecosystems

News and Information

“I am thrilled that Bob has received this award in recognition of his long career of exceptional research – especially because his work helps generate innovative management solutions to environmental problems.”

Lisa Graumlich, dean
UW College of the Environment

Robert J. Naiman, a University of Washington professor known internationally for his work on freshwater ecology and ways to balance environmental and societal considerations, has received the highest award given by the Ecological Society of America, the world’s largest society of professional ecologists.

Each year the Eminent Ecologist Award goes to a senior ecologist who has produced an outstanding body of ecological work according to the society.

Naiman, a professor in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, studies the structure and dynamics of streams and rivers and the vegetated areas on either side of such bodies of water – known as riparian zones.

The awards committee, for example, pointed to Naiman’s key role in establishing a national ecological research program in freshwater science at the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Science Foundation. Leading up to that, he led a working group and helped build the consensus necessary so that the resulting document “The Freshwater Imperative: A Research Agenda” was endorsed by all the major professional organizations involved with freshwater issues.

Additionally, he was instrumental in establishing international research and education programs on rivers and riparian zones in southern Africa, and chairing several international committees on similar endeavors.

Robert Naiman

U of Washington

Robert Naiman

Naiman, who joined the UW in 1988 and holds a UNESCO Chair in Sustainable Rivers, says his underlying philosophy is that effective decisions are founded on a balance of environmental and cultural principles. It’s at the heart of his two current projects.

Naiman is on the science advisory board to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, the group overseeing the restoration of endangered fish in the Columbia River. The board recently published a report on using a comprehensive landscape perspective that combines ecological and social drivers. He’s also working on helping develop scenarios for southwest Australia that address ecological and social opportunities that could result from shifts in climate during the next few decades. The ecological aspects, centered around maintaining natural biodiversity, as well as social aspects related to emerging industries, need to be blended, Naiman said.

“Bob Naiman has been one of several key faculty advocating that the UW take a far more strategic view and expand freshwater research regionally and internationally in programs emanating from the UW’s College of the Environment,” said David Armstrong, UW professor and director for 14 years of the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences.

Naiman has published more than 225 peer-reviewed papers and book chapters. Topics have ranged from the key role played by woody debris in waterways – important to understand because it contributes to the salmon well-being – to how migrating salmon are conveyor belts for nutrients, carrying nitrogen and phosphorus they consume at sea and delivering it to the forests when their carcasses decay or when animals like brown bears eat them and deposit the nutrients in the adjacent lands.

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For more information:
Naiman, naiman@u.washington.edu