President George W. Bush awards Dr. Likens the National Medal of Science.
Dr. Likens' research focuses on the ecology and biogeochemistry of forest and aquatic ecosystems, primarily through long-term studies at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. He was the co-founder of the Hubbard Brook Ecosystem Study in 1963, which has shed light on critical links between ecosystem function and land-use practices. He and his colleagues were the first scientists to discover acid rain in North America and to document the link between the combustion of fossil fuels and an increase in the acidity of precipitation. His findings have influenced politicians and policy makers, guided and motivated scientific studies, and increased public awareness of human-accelerated environmental change.
In 2002 he was awarded the 2001 National Medal of Science, the nation's highest science honor, for his contributions to the field of ecology.
President Hu Jun of Jinan University (Guangzhou, China) and Dr. Gene E. Likens.
On 29 April 2006, Dr. Likens was elected to be a member of the American Philosophical Society, having previously been elected to the National Academy of Sciences (1981) and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1979). On 11 June 2003, the Asahi Glass Foundation announced that Dr. Likens was a co-recipient of the 2003 Blue Planet Prize for outstanding scientific research that helps to solve global environmental problems. Dr. Likens was awarded the distinction along with Dr. F. H. Bormann, his long-term collaborator in the Hubbard Brook Ecosystem Study in New Hampshire. The Asahi Glass Foundation aspires for the Blue Planet Prize to be recognized as the environmental equivalent of the Nobel Prize.
Dr. Gene E. Likens receiving an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Montclair State University. (photo by Mike Peters)
In November 2009, Dr. Likens was awarded an Einstein Professorship from the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The Chinese Academy of Sciences annually awards Einstein Professorships to 15-20 top international scientists working on the forefront of science and technology, and Dr. Likens was selected on the basis of his academic and scholarly contributions to ecology and biogeochemistry. While lecturing and traveling in China in October/November 2009, he was awarded an Honorary Professorship from Jinan University, located in Guangzhou.
In May 2012, Dr. Likens delivered the keynote address for the Montclair State University’s College of Science and Mathematics Convocation ceremony and received an honorary Doctor of Science degree from the University.
Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest
For almost fifty years, I have been working with colleagues on the effects of human-accelerated environmentall change within the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in the White Mountains, NH. Our goal has been to investigate how disturbance impacts diverse biological, physical, chemical and hydrological parameters of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and to evaluate the legacies of this disturbance within the Hubbard Brook Valley. Studies at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, which have included long-term biogeochemistry and whole-system experimental manipulation, led to the discovery of acid rain in North America [Likens 2010, FEE].
Stream Ecosystem Research
Stream ecosystem research at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest started in the mid 1960s, and has included: surveys of invertebrate taxa; long-term studies of stream chemistry, temperature and hydrology; flux, cycling and mass-balance approaches to element cycling; and numerous whole-stream manipulative experiments to examine stream dynamics and processes. Current projects include the restoration of acidified stream ecosystems, the role of organic debris dams in streams, salinization of Mirror Lake from road deicers added from nearby I93, the valley-wide export of solutes from the Hubbard Brook Valley, and the network analysis of multi-scale controls on streamwater chemistry. Long-term analysis of precipitation and streamwater chemistry reveal rapid and relentless dilution. Chemistry is projected to demineralized conditions within a decade or so (Likens and Buso 2012, ES&T).
During the national acid rain debate in the 1980s, one of the most vexing questions concerned the relationship between SO2 emissions and the concentration of SO42- in precipitation. A lack of long-term or experimental data prevented answering this politically important question. Currently, continuous long-term data on precipitation chemistry (1963-present) from the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest have been collected. When correlated with anthropogenic emissions of SO2, the results of this long-term analysis provide a clear, if not surprising, relationship (see Likens et al, 2005, J. Environ. Monitoring).
For further information, see: Encyclopædia Britannica article contributed by Gene E. Likens and Thomas J. Butler.
With former postdoctoral associate Dr. Winsor Lowe, several Research Experience for Undergraduates students, and Research Support Specialists we have an active and diverse program focused on salamander populations, behavior, dispersal and general ecology within the White Mountains of New Hampshire. This program includes my own research on eastern red-backed salamanders (Plethodon cinereus).
I have studied Mirror Lake, situated near the base of the Hubbard Brook Valley in New Hampshire, for more than 44 years. Ongoing studies, with colleagues, include research on chemical flux and cycling, hydrology, history and ecology. Our goal is to understand the interactions of air, land and water from an ecosystem perspective. A book based on this research was published in 1985; a second book, integrating 20 years of biogeochemical and hydrological data, was published in 2009. Current projects include diverting road salt inputsaway from the lake, and long-term analysis of ice cover duration on the lake (Likens 2000).
I spent much of 2008-2010 in Australia on two fellowships. First with the ‘Water for a Healthy Country’ program at CSIRO in Canberra, and the second was a Commonwealth for Environment Research Facilities (CERF) fellowship at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra. The CERF Fellowship was spent thinking about and developing a strategic plan for a long-term monitoring program in biodiversity and environmental change for Australia. This task was accomplished and a brief description can be found in Likens and Lindenmayer (Austral Ecology, 2011).
My scholarly activities with Prof. David Lindenmayer at ANU have continued in numerous writing projects, e.g. Lindenmayer and Likens 2009, 2010, 2011; Lindenmayer et al. 2011.
University of Connecticut-Storrs
I have offered mini-courses in Scientific Ethics and Communication and Ecosystems and Biogeochemistry at the University of Connecticut-Storrs during 2005-2010. During the fall semester of 2011, I returned to the University of Connecticut-Storrs as a Distinguished Visiting Research Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology to give a seminar course with colleagues on 'Nature, Science and Society'. As of 1 July 2012, I became the Special Advisor to the President on Environmental Affairs and Distinguished Research Professor for a 3-year term.
University of Uppsala, Sweden
I am a Visiting Professor at Uppsala University in the Department of Limnology during February-April 2011; September-November 2012; and March-May 2013. This time is spent in writing, interacting with students, postdocs and faculty at the University and at the nearby Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), teaching a seminar on eutrophication, scientific ethics, communications and lecturing.