Three University of Arizona faculty members officially have been named Regents' Professors by...
Observing Nature to Help Make Sense of a Complex World
Rafe Sagarin, a marine ecologist at the UA's Institute of the Environment, has received a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship to help society better understand and respond to security threats such as terrorism, infectious diseases and natural disasters.
One book, for Island Press, centers on how sciences, such as ecology, are returning to their roots in observation of the natural world, albeit with the aid of new technologies, to study large-scale environmental and social problems.
The second book, for Basic Books, summarizes five years of research and development Sagarin has conducted on biological adaptation to help society better understand and respond to security threats such as terrorism, infectious diseases and natural disasters.
Sagarin was "shocked and elated" to receive news that he won the prestigious fellowship.
"My fellowship application, as with all my ecological and environmental policy work, focused on the idea of observation of nature in its many forms, and how in this era of intensive global change, simple naturalistic observations are the key to understanding the world's complexity and uncertainty," he said.
Sagarin's research is multi-pronged. He studies responses of marine organisms and wetlands to climate change, illegal fishing, pollution and other human activities.
In that work he has used unusual data sets from writers, naturalists, artists and gamblers to recreate historical patterns of ecosystem change, including reconstructing changes to the Sea of Cortez since the famous expedition of writer John Steinbeck and ecologist Ed Ricketts, chronicled in Steinbeck's book, "The Log From the Sea of Cortez."
Sagarin also studies environmental policy, philosophy and history and is documenting the transformation in science back toward primarily observational, rather than experimental, methods of learning.
In addition, his Natural Security Project examines how examples of adaptation and evolution in nature can be used as a guide for improving our own security. The project produced the volume Natural Security: A Darwinian Approach to a Dangerous World (UC Press 2008) that Sagarin co-edited.
Sagarin joined the UA in 2009 after working as a researcher at University of California, Los Angeles and Duke University. At the UA he also is an assistant adjunct professor in the School of Natural Resources and the Environment.
He is the second Institute of the Environment staff member to receive a Guggenheim Fellowship. Jonathan Overpeck, the institute's co-director and a professor of geosciences and atmospheric sciences, received the honor in 2005.
Guggenheim fellows are chosen on the basis of "prior achievement and exceptional promise," according to the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.
The winners in the 87th annual U.S. and Canadian Guggenheim competition were chosen from a group of nearly 3,000 applicants. In all, 74 academic institutions and 62 disciplines are represented by this year's Guggenheim Fellows.
The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation was established in 1925 by former U.S. Sen. and Mrs. Simon Guggenheim to "add to the educational, literary, artistic, and scientific power of this country, and also to provide for the cause of better international understanding." The foundation has granted nearly $290 million in fellowships to more than 17,000 people.
UA faculty members who previously won Guggenheim Fellowships, from 1937:
- Xiaohui Fan, associate professor of astronomy at Steward Observatory, 2008
- Dennis Zaritsky, professor of astronomy, 2006
- Jonathan T. Overpeck, co-director of the Institute of the Environment and professor of geosciences and of atmospheric sciences, 2005
- Steve Johnstone, professor of history, 2004
- Susan C. Karant-Nunn, professor of history, director of the Division for Late Medieval and Reformation Studies, 2003
- Ellen B. Basso, professor of anthropology; Craig Walsh, assistant professor of music, 2002
- Elizabeth Vierling, professor of biochemistry and of molecular and cellular biology, and of plant sciences, 2000
- Steve Orlen, professor of English, 1999
- H. Jay Melosh, professor of planetary sciences; Irene Maxine Pepperberg, associate professor of ecology & evolutionary biology and of psychology, 1996
- Nicholas J. Strausfeld, professor of neurobiology and of entomology and anatomy, 1994
- Harmony Hammond, professor of art, 1991
- Jerrold Edwin Hogle, University Distinguished Professor of English, 1989
- Jane R. Miller, professor of English, 1988
- Alan E. Bernstein, associate professor of history; Arthur J. Jelinek, professor of anthropology, 1987
- Daniel Asia, composer; professor of composition and director, Composition Program, 1986
- Robert H. Colescott, artist; Regents' Professor Emeritus of art, 1985
- Victor J. Hruby, Regents' Professor of chemistry and professor of biochemistry and neuroscience; Hermann George Rebel, associate professor of history; William M. Schaffer, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, 1984
- Keith Lehrer, Regents' Professor of philosophy, 1983
- Jonathan Beck, head, professor of French; Edgar A. Dryden, professor of English; Gerald C. Monsman, professor of English ; Arthur T. Winfree, deceased, Regents' Professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, 1982
- William G. Dever, professor of Near Eastern Archaeology and anthropology; Michael Schaller, professor of history; Donald Robert Uhlmann, professor of materials science and engineering, 1981
- C. Vance Haynes, professor of anthropology and geosciences; William H. Wing, professor of physics and optical sciences, 1980
- J. P. Wearing, emeritus professor of English, 1978
- Jonathan Penner, writer, professor of English, 1977
- Jon Anderson, Poet; professor of English; Thomas G. Bever, head, professor of linguistics; Alan C. Newell, professor of mathematics; Douglas G. Stuart, Regents' Professor of physiology, 1976
- Robert Porter Erickson; Douglas S. Holsclaw, professor of human genetics & metabolic diseases; Alvin Ira Goldman, Regents' Professor of philosophy, 1975
- Joel Feinberg, Regents' Professor of philosophy and law; Eliot S. Hearst, adjunct professor of psychology, 1974
- John A. Mills, emeritus professor of English, 1972
- Rubin Bressler, professor of pharmacology, 1969
- Harold Clark Fritts, professor emeritus of dendrochronology; Ursula S. Lamb, deceased.professor emeritus of history; Charles Philip Sonett, Regents' Professor Emeritus of planetary sciences, 1968
- N. Scott Momaday, professor of English, 1966
- Paul Schultz Martin, professor emeritus of geosciences, 1965
- William R. Dickinson, professor emeritus of geosciences, 1964
- Herbert E. Carter, professor emeritus of biochemistry, 1961
- Willis Eugene Lamb, Jr., Regents' Professor of physics and optical sciences, 1960
- Jean-Jacques Demorest, professor emeritus of Romance languages, 1959
- Richard Meredith Hosley, professor of English, 1957
- Henry Koffler, former UA president, 1953
- Lawrence Clark Powell, deceased, professor emeritus of library service, University of California, Los Angeles; director emeritus, William Andrews Clark Memorial Library; professor in residence, 1950
- Robert Guyn McBride, composer; professor emeritus of music, 1937