Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, December 17, 2014

Contact: Shaye Wolf, (415) 632-5301,

Renowned Climate Scientist Aradhna Tripati Honored With E.O. Wilson Award

3rd Annual Award Presented for Groundbreaking Work to
Understand Past Climate Change, Earth's History

SAN FRANCISCO The Center for Biological Diversity today presented its third annual E.O. Wilson Award for Outstanding Science in Biodiversity Conservation to Dr. Aradhna Tripati, an assistant professor at the University of California, Los Angeles for her groundbreaking research on carbon dioxide’s role in climate change. The award was presented at the American Geophysical Union’s fall meeting in San Francisco.

Dr. Tripati pioneered a new method of studying climate change through Earth’s history by using molecules in fossilized marine shells from millions of years ago. Her research brings awareness of the effects of different CO2 levels on historical climate change and can be used as a tool for policymakers to understand how permitting varying levels of CO2 pollution could influence the future global distribution of plants and animals.

“We’re honored to present this award to Dr. Tripati, whose brilliant science gives climate deniers no wiggle room, demonstrating beyond doubt the links between carbon dioxide pollution, global climate change and the history of life on Earth,” said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center. “Her advocacy for using the knowledge of past climate change to prepare for the future provides us with an important tool for protecting the diversity of life that sustains us all.”

“At this pivotal moment in Earth’s history, climate change poses one of the most dire threats to the preservation of biodiversity,” said E.O. Wilson, the award’s namesake. “I congratulate Dr. Tripati on her award and urge other scientists to follow her example in advocating for reduced carbon emissions to safeguard the stable climate conditions on which all life on Earth depends.”

Tripati’s new chemical techniques for understanding past climate have a very low uncertainty rate and allow scientists to estimate CO2 levels millions of years ago with statistical confidence. Her research provides solid evidence that CO2 is linked historically with environmental shifts such as changes in plant and animal ranges, ice distribution, sea levels and monsoon intensity.

“I’m honored to receive an award named for one of the true giants of modern science,” said Dr. Tripati. “E. O. Wilson’s pioneering work helped inspire my own research, and his lyrical descriptions of our planet’s incredible biodiversity also highlight how much is at stake as global warming begins to alter our world. My great hope is that science can help us preserve a livable climate.”

Tripati’s work revealed that the last time CO2 levels were as high as they are today was 15 million to 20 million years ago, when the distribution of plants and animals was dramatically different, global temperatures were 5 to 10 degrees warmer, and the sea level was 75 to 120 feet higher than today. Her research suggests that the CO2 threshold for maintaining year-round Arctic ice may be well below modern levels.

The Center presents the E.O. Wilson Award annually to a scientist who has made an outstanding contribution to conservation. It is named after renowned scientist Edward O. Wilson of Harvard University, known as “the father of biodiversity.” Wilson’s career has focused on promoting worldwide understanding of the importance of biodiversity and the preservation of our biological heritage, and he is the world’s leading authority on ants.

Wilson congratulated the Center for using today’s award to increase attention to climate change.

In addition to climate, Dr. Tripati studies changing coastal environments and the impact of ocean acidification on marine invertebrates such as mollusks, corals and sea urchins. She has also analyzed molecules in dinosaur teeth to understand body temperatures, revealing that sauropods maintained warm bodies.

Dr. Tripati has joint appointments in the departments of Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences and Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences and is a faculty member of the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics.

The E.O Wilson Award consists of a handcrafted ant sculpture by artist Anne Bujold of Riveted Rabbit Studio in Portland, Ore., and a $1,000 cash prize.

The 2013 award was presented to Dr. Tyrone Hayes of the University of California Berkeley for his work to protect people and wildlife, particularly amphibians, from pesticides. The 2012 award was presented to Dr. James Deacon of the University of Nevada Las Vegas for his 53-year career focused on conservation of desert fish and sustainable water-use advocacy.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 800,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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