The Population Association of America (PAA) selected biologist Hal Caswell of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) to receive the 2014 Mindel C. Sheps Award for his contributions to mathematical demography. The PAA is the major professional society devoted to the study of human populations. The prestigious honor is awarded to one scientist biennially on the basis of important contributions to knowledge either in the form of a single piece of work or a continuing record of high achievement.
Caswell, who received the award at the PAA meeting in Boston, on May 2, 2014, was cited for his lifetime contributions to mathematical demographic analysis, especially his work on matrix population models, spanning studies of plants, animals, and humans. His results have had a great influence on such diverse areas as life history theory, conservation biology and climate studies, patterns of longevity and reproduction in human populations, and the evolution of aging.
Some of Caswell’s recent research has focused on developing models for studying the population dynamics and demography of threatened species, such as polar bears. Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey turned to Caswell and colleague Christine Hunter of the University of Alaska to advise a team conducting an extensive study of Artic polar bears in 2007. Using new models and analysis, Caswell and Hunter found that the declining habitat of polar bears in the Artic is dramatically affecting survival, breeding, and population growth.
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