Professor Stuart L. Pimm was awarded the Dr A.H. Heineken Prize for Environmental Sciences 2006 for his research on species extinction and conservation.
It was Stuart Pimm who introduced the concept of the ‘food chain’ into research on the extinction of plant and animal species in the early 1980s. The extinction of a particular species within an ecological system may have an enormous impact on other species, but introducing a new species into a particular ecological system can also have far-reaching consequences. Pimm’s analyses have proved to be highly inspiring for other researchers. He has gained worldwide reputation for his research on the loss of biodiversity and the potential for species conservation, making use of many modern methods and techniques to track populations, such as remote sensing by satellite.
A recurring theme in his work, including his book The World According to Pimm, is the impact of human beings on the natural environment. The rapid extinction of plant and animal species is closely associated with such human activity as deforestation, land reclamation, overfishing and overhunting, excessive consumption of water and water pollution. It is therefore also up to the human race to call a halt to species extinction.
Pimm explains that the overwhelming majority of organisms depend directly but most frequently indirectly on plant species (primary producers) for their survival. He fervently believes that mankind must do everything possible to preserve ecosystems such as the tropical rainforest. Pimm continuously presents factual evidence for his arguments and is considered an influential lobbyist by the media and policy-makers.
Pimm, S.L., Food webs, Chapman and Hall, Londen, 1982. Revised edition published in 2003 by the University of Chicago Press, Chicago IL
Pimm, S.L., The balance of nature?: Ecological issues in the conservation of species and communities, University of Chicago Press, Chicago IL, 1991
Pimm, S.L., The world according to Pimm: A scientist audits the earth, McGraw Hill, New York, 2001
Stuart Pimm was born in Derbyshire, United Kingdom, in 1949. He studied zoology at Oxford and received his doctorate in 1974 from New Mexico State University in the United States. He has remained in the U.S. ever since and is a naturalised American citizen.
Pimm decided to study conservation biology when he watched various bird species on Hawaii go extinct in the 1970s. He is still involved in a research programme on Hawaii, but also conducts research in Madagascar, Brazil and South Africa. One of his beliefs is that conservation should be practised on a global scale. Pimm feels it is his task to share his knowledge with politicians and journalists, and he has worked energetically for many years to impart his research results to the general public and policy-makers. He has succeeded in communicating the importance of ecological conservation to a wide audience through his highly accessible publications, for example The World According to Pimm.
Starting in the 1970s, Professor Pimm held appointments at Texas Tech University and the University of Tennessee. In 1999 he accepted a position as Professor with the Center for Environmental Research and Conservation at Columbia University. He currently holds the Doris Duke Chair of Conservation Ecology at Duke University in Durham and Extraordinary Professor with the Conservation Ecology Research Unit at the University of Pretoria in South Africa.
In September 2005 Stuart Pimm together with Clinton Jenkins published an article in Scientific American on biodiversity. The article resembles the subject of Pimm’s lectures which he held in September 2006 in the Netherlands during the Heineken Prizes Scientific Week.