UMass Boston Distinguished Professor of Biology Kamal Bawa, an internationally recognized and honored evolutionary ecologist and one of India’s most prominent conservation biologists, was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in April and will be formally admitted on July 10, 2015.
Bawa joins former and current fellows such as Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, and about 80 Nobel laureates.
Established in 1660, each year the Royal Society’s existing fellowship proposes about 700 candidates for election, and then elects up to 52 fellows from England and the Commonwealth countries, and up to 10 foreign fellows.
A statement published on the society website reads: “[Bawa's] pioneering contributions to understanding the population biology of tropical forest trees led to new strategies for their conservation, and also for the sustainable use of non-timber forest products…he has provided leadership in conservation science in India by establishing ATREE, an influential NGO that generates interdisciplinary knowledge, guides policymaking, disseminates information, and builds human capacity in biodiversity science. Through his work and popular writing, Kamal Bawa has promoted international cooperation in science, while also strengthening biodiversity awareness and public support for conservation in Indian civil society.”
In April 2012, Bawa received two notable honors. He was awarded the Royal Norwegian Society of Science and Letters’ first Gunnerus Sustainability Award, which is the first major international award for work on sustainability. He was also elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. More recently, he was the recipient of the prestigious International Midori Prize in Biodiversity (2014), and an honorary doctorate of science at the University of Alberta (2014).
True to his pioneer’s ethos 36 years after joining UMass Boston, Bawa says, “I am interested in developing new paradigms of conversation that take into account the need to alleviate poverty in biodiversity-rich areas through sustainable use of biodiversity. I also remain interested in the sustainable use of ecosystem services including such provisioning services as non-timber forest products. My third distinct interest in sustainable studies is land use and land cover change and its impact on biodiversity.”
Bawa notes that there is considerable debate about the success of integrated conservation and development projects in meeting the twin goals of conservation and poverty reduction.
He says that work on sustainable livelihoods at several sites in the Eastern Himalayas tests whether conservation and biodiversity can be enhanced while alleviating poverty, and his approach is to quantify changes in economic and social parameters resulting from economic and institutional interventions. Data are analyzed and findings integrated with results from other similar projects both within and outside South Asia.
“Kamal Bawa's election as a fellow of the Royal Society further validates the critical importance of his contributions to and legacy as one of the chief founders of the field of sustainability,” said UMass Boston Chancellor J. Keith Motley. “His teaching and research have had a profound effect on hundreds of students and faculty members at UMass Boston, and many other universities beyond the United States. He continues raising our awareness of the need for a healthy intertwined and interdependent relationship between the natural environment and humans that is the linchpin for assuring the existence of the planet and thus ourselves in the centuries to come.”
Bawa is the second University of Massachusetts faculty member to be elected a fellow of the Royal Society. The first was Roger Davis, a professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School who teaches in the program in Molecular Medicine. Davis was elected in 2002 for his research on the mechanisms by which growth factors regulate cellular proliferation.
About the Royal Society
The Royal Society is a self-governing fellowship of many of the world’s most distinguished scientists drawn from all areas of science, engineering, and medicine. The society is the national academy of science in the UK, and its core is its fellowship and foreign membership, supported by a dedicated staff in London and elsewhere. The fellowship comprises the most eminent scientists of the UK, Ireland, and the Commonwealth.