Davd Starr Jordan Prize Winner for the year 2009
Anurag Agrawal, born (1972) in Allentown, Pennsylvania, received his B.A. (Biology magna cum laude) and M.A. (Conservation Biology) from the University of Pennsylvania, where he was inspired by Daniel Janzen, a pioneering evolutionary ecologist, and became intrigued with plant–animal interactions. He completed his Ph.D. (1999 Population Biology) with Rick Karban at the University of California, Davis, and held a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Amsterdam before becoming an Assistant Professor of Botany at the University of Toronto. In 2004, he joined the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at Cornell, where he is currently an Associate Professor.
Dr. Agrawal’s research has been remarkably broad, embracing chemical ecology, quantitative genetics, phylogenetic analyses, community dynamics and the nascent field of community genetics (to which he has been one of the early contributors). His research is characterized by rigorous, manipulative field experiments to test for the importance of interactions among species (especially novel ones that may be pervasive in nature but have escaped our attention), and the melding of conceptual ideas from disparate areas of biology. He has already become one of the world’s most influential scholars in population and community ecology, continuing to innovate with empirical and synthetic work.
His prowess as an experimentalist was first evident in his doctoral research which showed that plant fitness is decreased when domatia (pockets on leaves that harbor mites that attack herbivores) are occluded. In addition, his body of work on the evolutionary ecology of induced defenses in plants resulted in a reorientation of the field. He conducted one of the first rigorous analyses of the fitness benefits and costs of induced responses, transgenerational effects of herbivory, and the community consequences of plant defense. Now, he has resurrected the Monarch–Milkweed interaction, a textbook case of coevolution, and has unraveled the reciprocal interplay between plant and insect community structure and the evolution of defense. This synthesis required studies of plant chemistry, field observations, and ecological genetics.
More recently Dr. Agrawal has employed phylogenetic techniques to compare the ecological interactions of introduced and native plant species, and the deep-time evolution of plant defense strategies. Although the study of the tempo and mode of evolution has historically been the domain of paleontologists, he is pioneering the application of phylogenetic tools for the rigorous examination of enemy-driven macroevolution.
Dr. Agrawal has edited a book and authored over 100 papers. He has served as
an associate editor for several major journals, including Ecology, Ecology Letters,
PLoS Biology and Quarterly Review of Biology. At Cornell, he currently serves
as Associate Director of the Center for a Sustainable Future. In recognition
of his work, he has been awarded the Young Investigator Award (1999, American
Society of Naturalists), Early Career Award (2004, National Science Foundation),
and the George Mercer Award (2006, Ecological Society of America).