March 03, 2009

Distinguished scientist to discuss acid rain

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE -- A distinguished scientist and ecologist will speak about the issue of acid rain this week at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Gene Likens, a distinguished senior scientist and ecologist and founding director of the Institute of Ecosystem Studies, will speak at 4 p.m. Thursday, March 5, in the auditorium of the Life Science III building. Likens’ presentation is titled “Acid rain: An Unfinished Environmental Problem.”

The seminar is free and open to the public.

Sara G. Baer, assistant professor in the Department of Plant Biology in the College of Science, said Likens’ research involves ecology and biogeochemistry of forest and aquatic ecosystems. Likens co-founded the Hubbard Brook Ecosystem study in 1963, which helped explain links between land-use and ecosystem functions.

Along with colleagues, Likens discovered the existence of acid rain and its link to fossil fuels. The findings played a role in U.S. environmental policies and focused public discussion on the impact humans have on their environment.

“His long-term monitoring of stream water chemistry detected leaching of forest nutrients correlated to increasing acid deposition,” Baer said. “Likens' work was instrumental in forming legislation to reduce anthropogenic nitrogen and sulfur oxide emissions. Watersheds at Hubbard Brook have responded positively to efforts to improve air quality, but the story is not over and that is the topic upon which he will speaking about on Thursday at SIUC.”

Likens is the recipient of the nation’s highest science honor, the National Medal of Science. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. He is the winner of the 2003 Blue Planet Prize, an environmental award comparable to the Nobel Prize.

The SIUC Center for Ecology, a multi-disciplinary group of students and faculty aimed promoting ecological awareness and research, is presenting the program. The SIUC Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research is sponsoring the event.