The Senckenberg Nature Research Society (Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung) awarded its 2016 Nature Research Prize to University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa (UHM) oceanographer Craig Smith. The mission of Senckenberg, a 200-year old scholarly society based in Frankfurt, Germany, is to make science and scientific findings accessible to the public through teaching, publishing and the natural history museums. Senckenberg marked its anniversary year with the third award ceremony of the Senckenberg prize for outstanding achievements in nature research and special personal contributions toward the protection and preservation of the natural environment.
The Senckenberg prize in the Nature Research category, endowed with $10,000, is awarded annually to a scientist who has made excellent, internationally recognized achievements in nature research. Smith’s research is focused on the species diversity and the study of disruptions and human impacts on the ocean floor – for example, from deep-sea mining. His studies have been conducted in various ecosystems in the Antarctic, in mangroves, submarine canyons, at cold seeps, continental slopes and on deep-sea plains. His research led to the recognition of the importance of whale carcasses as special habitats contributing to the diversity the deep-sea fauna. Smith has studied “whale fall” communities for over 30 years. The oceanographer has led more than 60 marine expeditions from the equator to Antarctica, has participated in over 100 dives with human-occupied and autonomous submersibles, and he is one of the project leaders for “CeDAMar” – a “census” of marine life in deep-sea basins.
“This year, the Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung celebrates its 200-year anniversary: 200 years of Senckenberg represent two centuries of top-of-the-line research in natural sciences and dissemination of knowledge, as well as outstanding citizen-science involvement,” said the society’s managing director Prof. Dr. h. c. Volker Mosbrugger.
“It is really an honor to receive the Senckenberg Prize from an institution that has led biodiversity research for 200 years! I am also very pleased that the award was made to a marine scientist and deep-sea biologist, helping to raise international awareness of the need to consider human impacts in even the most remote parts of the biosphere,” said Smith.
The Senckenberg prize in the Engagement for Nature category, also endowed with $10,000, is awarded to persons who have shown an exemplary, outstanding private engagement for nature conservation, nature education and the sustainable use of natural resources. This year’s award went to the musician and ClearWater co-founder and ambassador Rea Garvey. The project aims at supplying clean drinking water to more than 2,000 families of indigenous people and farmers in the Amazon region.
Senckenberg’s president Dr. h. c. Beate Heraeus, summarizes as follows: “Prof. Dr. Craig R. Smith and Rea Garvey are two strong personalities who combine and authentically embody their knowledge of nature with their enthusiasm for it. From this, they draw their conclusions – one as a scientist, the other a citizen, and each of them, in his own way, calls the attention of the broad public to the need to treat our planet with care. By honoring persons such as Craig Smith and Rea Garvey, the Senckenberg Prize is meant to sensitize a wide audience to the importance of the study and preservation of our nature and its diversity.”
For the third time, the BMW branch in Frankfurt serves as the official partner of the award ceremony and the subsequent Senckenberg night, providing the prize money in the amount of $20,000 in order to further the cultural and social life in the city of Frankfurt.