June 11, 2004

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Contact: Bradley Kemp, KU Natural History Museum, (785) 864-4540.

KU museum scientist honored with premier award by professional peers

LAWRENCE -- A University of Kansas Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Research Center ichthyologist was recognized for his exemplary contributions to the field during last week's meetings of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists in Norman, Okla.

Edward O. Wiley, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and curator of fish at the museum, received the Gibbs Award for Excellence in Systematic Ichthyology, the society's premier award and the most prestigious peer-awarded recognition in the field. The Gibbs award recognizes "an outstanding body of published work in systematic ichthyology." The recognition is accompanied by a cash award. Ichthyology is a branch of zoology that deals with fishes.

Wiley has made significant theoretical and empirical contributions to the field, including elucidating cladistics, the most widely used technique for determining evolutionary relationships among species. Much of his current research involves using data associated with museum collections to formulate models that can predict how species and their habitats interact and how these interactions influence evolutionary change. Wiley has written or co-written more than 100 scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals, and he co-wrote "The Compleat Cladist," a widely used textbook on cladistics.

"Dr. Wiley has made many contributions to general understanding of fishes," said Henry Bart, director of the Tulane University Museum of Natural History, who formally presented the award to Wiley. "Some of his most recent contributions are in the emerging field of biodiversity informatics, involving uses of natural history collection information in ecological modeling.

"However, his greatest contributions are in the area of systematics theory. He literally wrote the book on the theory and practice of phylogenetic systematics, with the publication of 'Phylogenetics' in 1981."

Melanie Stiassny, research curator at the American Museum of Natural History, called Wiley, "a world-class systematic ichthyologist, a free-thinking scholar and an accomplished theoretician. He is among the major thinkers in the international arena of contemporary evolutionary biology."

Also at last week's meetings, Jennifer Pramuk, doctoral student in herpetology, won the Herpetologists' League Robert G. Jaeger Student Award for Graduate Research for her talk on the evolutionary history of a genus of South American frogs.

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