Hal Caswell Wins Humboldt Research Award


Hal Caswell, a senior scientist in the Biology Department at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), was awarded a 2010 Humboldt Research Award by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Bonn, Germany.

The award is given “to internationally renowned scientists and scholars whose fundamental discoveries, new theories or insights have a significant impact on their own discipline and who are expected to continue producing cutting-edge achievements in the future," according to the foundation.

Caswell is well known for his work on population dynamics and demography. His recent research in this area has focused on developing models for studying threatened species, such as right whales, albatrosses, and polar bears.  

“This is a prestigious award, and it not only recognizes Hal Caswell’s work but also his leadership internationally,” said Susan Avery, WHOI President and Director.

Named for the 19th-century German naturalist and explorer, the Humboldt Foundation grants up to 100 research awards annually, based on nominations made by German institutions. The award, which includes funds for an extended research stay in Germany, promotes academic collaborations among the world’s top scholars and scientists. The foundation maintains a network of more than 24,000 “Humboldtians” from all disciplines in more than 130 countries, including 43 Nobel Prize winners.

Caswell will receive about $82,000 and plans to travel to the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock where he will collaborate with researchers in the Laboratory of Evolutionary Biodemography. The lab group is focusing on questions about human aging by analyzing the evolution of many life history traits across a wide range of taxonomic groups of organisms.  

“The analytical methods that I've developed in my research have many applications in this area, so I am looking forward to working on both theoretical problems and applications,” Caswell said.

Caswell earned both a bachelor’s in zoology in 1971 and a doctorate in zoology in 1974 from Michigan State University. After six years on the faculty at the University of Connecticut, he came to WHOI in 1981. Caswell is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and has been a Guggenheim Fellow, a Maclaurin Fellow, and a Fellow of the WHOI Ocean Life Institute.  He has received several international awards recognizing his research and has authored or co-authored over 150 papers, as well as several books on population dynamics and demography.

 The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is a private, independent organization in Falmouth, Mass., dedicated to marine research, engineering, and higher education. Established in 1930 on a recommendation from the National Academy of Sciences, its primary mission is to understand the ocean and its interaction with the Earth as a whole, and to communicate a basic understanding of the ocean's role in the changing global environment.