NRT director Craig Allen and three other STEM professors at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln were recently named fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest general scientific society. Fellows are selected by their peers for scientifically or socially distinguished achievements that advance science or its application.
Allen is one of the nation’s foremost researchers of resilience, a framework for addressing how systems can withstand stressors such as changing vegetation patterns, water shortages and climate variability without losing critical functions.
He is a key player in putting the field on the map and said the AAAS honor reminded him of the discipline’s evolution since he was a graduate student in the 1990s.
“Some of the areas were once considered obscure and esoteric,” said Allen, professor of natural resources. “But my Ph.D. adviser beat it into my head that there’s only one test that really matters: the test of time. It’s nice to have decades of work validated.”
Allen is best known for investigating how biological diversity affects resilience in complex systems and how landscape changes impact native animal populations and diversity. He’s a leader in panarchy theory, a social-ecological approach focused on scale-specific distribution of system functions.
More recently, Allen has focused on applying resilience theory to on-the-ground challenges. With Department of Defense funding, he and colleagues are developing an early warning system that would enable decision-makers to prepare for disruptive ecological shifts.
Allen has contributed to more than 200 publications, including five books, which have been cited more than 10,000 times. He’s secured over $20 million in external funding from agencies including the National Science Foundation, Department of Defense and U.S. Geological Survey.
Allen is a dedicated mentor. He leads an NSF Research Traineeship program focused on agricultural landscape resilience and previously co-directed an NSF-funded training initiative on adaptive ecosystem management. He founded the Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, through which he mentored more than 50 students.
He’s served on advisory boards and committees regionally, nationally and internationally, including for The Nature Conservancy and the Resilience Alliance, an international group dedicated to sustainability.
At Nebraska, Allen is launching the Center for Resilience in Working Agricultural Landscapes, which will focus on agricultural resilience and agro-ecosystem management.
AAAS has been electing fellows since 1874. This year’s cohort will be formally announced in the Nov. 27 issue of the journal Science, to be followed by a virtual induction ceremony on Feb. 13. Nebraska’s honorees are among 489 members who were elected fellows this year.
— Adapted from an article by Tiffany Lee, Research and Economic Development