Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, January 17, 2018

Contact: Tierra Curry, (928) 522-3681,

UC Davis Professor Named E.O. Wilson Conservation Award Recipient

Dr. Rebecca R. Hernandez Wins Award for Outstanding Science, Advocacy

SAN FRANCISCO— The Center for Biological Diversity will present its fifth annual E.O. Wilson Award for Outstanding Science in Biodiversity Conservation to Dr. Rebecca R. Hernandez on Jan. 23 for working to protect desert lands and wildlife and advocating for sustainable renewable-energy development.

“We’re honored to present this award to Dr. Hernandez for promoting smart solar energy that safeguards our climate and precious desert landscapes,” said Kierán Suckling, the Center’s executive director. “Her willingness to speak out to protect wildlife and wild places sets an example of the crucial role scientists need to play in moving beyond research to advocate for the protection of life on Earth.”

Dr. Hernandez researches global environmental change, focusing on how renewable energy development and policymaking can combine to address energy insecurity, climate change, water scarcity and environmental degradation. She studies the potential for solar developments on rooftops, old landfill sites and other locations that benefit local communities without harming the natural landscape.

Dr. Hernandez is an assistant professor in the Department of Land, Air, and Water Resources at the University of California Davis. She began her career as a first-generation college student at Saddleback Valley Community College in Mission Viejo, Calif. Now she advocates for greater diversity in science careers and actively mentors young students, as well as pushing for increasing natural history training for scientists.

“I congratulate Dr. Hernandez and thank her for her important work to protect desert lands,” said Dr. E.O. Wilson, the award’s namesake. “Her research on sustainable solar energy development is relevant and urgent in addressing the modern extinction crisis.”

Arid lands make up more than 40 percent of the Earth’s terrestrial surface, provide important wildlife habitat and act as a global carbon sink since deep-rooted plants store vast amounts of carbon underground in stable form. As much carbon is bound up in desert soils as there is in the atmosphere.

Large-scale solar developments in the desert intended to curb global climate change could backfire by removing aboveground biomass, disturbing the soil and releasing the stored carbon into the atmosphere. This highlights the importance of appropriate scale and siting of solar facilities.

The award ceremony will take place at the Center’s Oakland office at 1212 Broadway, Suite 800, at 4:45 p.m. on Jan. 23.

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.

The E.O Wilson Award consists of a handcrafted metal ant sculpture by Anne Bujold of Riveted Rabbit Studio in Richmond, Virginia, along with a $1,000 cash prize.

The four previous recipients of the award were Lincoln Brower for his lifetime advocacy for monarch butterflies; Aradhna Tripati for her groundbreaking work on climate change; Tyrone Hayes for his work to protect people and wildlife from pesticides; and the late James Deacon for his advocacy for sustainable water use and the protection of freshwater species.

E.O. Wilson award

Photo courtesy Center for Biological Diversity. Images are available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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