Blair Hedges awarded Faculty Scholar Medal
Blair Hedges, a professor of biology, has been selected to receive the 2011 Penn State Faculty Scholar Medal for Outstanding Achievement in the Life and Health Sciences. Established in 1980, the award recognizes scholarly or creative excellence represented by a single contribution or a series of contributions around a coherent theme. A committee of faculty peers reviews nominations and selects candidates.
Hedges has made many important contributions to the field of evolutionary biology; in particular, his work has revealed connections between biological evolution and Earth history in diverse groups of organisms. He is the author of over 225 scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals and he has published two books, including The Timetree of Life, which is the first reference book to chart a comprehensive history of the origins of living species and their ancestors. He is the co-designer of the Apple "TimeTree" application, which lets anyone with an Apple iPhone harness a vast Internet storehouse of data about the diversity of life, from bacteria to humans. In addition, Hedges is a founding member of NASA's Astrobiology Institute, funded since 1998 to develop strategies for finding life on other planets and to understand how life evolved on Earth. Hedges also developed a new method for dating centuries-old art prints and books by analyzing the wood blocks and metal plates used for printmaking.
Throughout his career, Hedges has discovered, described in scientific publications, and named 79 previously unknown species of amphibians, reptiles, and butterflies; 18 genus groups of amphibians and reptiles; 19 family groups of amphibians and reptiles; and 30 higher taxa of prokaryotes and animals. Among those he discovered and named are the smallest species of frog, lizard, and snake in the world. Hedges also has led research and rescue missions in Haiti and other countries in the Caribbean to determine which species of amphibians and reptiles currently survive, to pinpoint their locations, to discover any new species that previously were not documented scientifically, to relocate live populations of frogs for captive breeding, and to cryobank the species' DNA at Penn State.
Hedges became a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2009. He has been invited to deliver many distinguished lectures throughout the world, including the Philips Distinguished Lecture at Haverford College, the Karling Lecture at the Mycological Society of America, and the Darwin Lecture at the Natural History Museum in London. His science writing won an award in the prestigious journal Nature and his work has been celebrated widely in newspapers such as the New York Times and in popular science magazines such as National Geographic, Popular Science, and Science News.
Hedges earned Ph.D. and master's degrees at the University of Maryland in 1988 and 1984, respectively, and a bachelor's degree at George Madison University in 1981.