AgBioResearch Scientist Honored for Contributions to Furthering Scientific Community

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Kay Gross, director of the W.K. Kellogg Biological Station, was awarded the 2008 Distinguished Service Citation. (view larger image)

Decades of service and dedication to the scientific community have earned Kay Gross, MAES plant biologist and director of the MSU W.K. Kellogg Biological Station, a prestigious national ecology award.

Gross received the 2008 Distinguished Service Citation from the Ecological Society of America (ESA) on Aug. 4. The award recognizes Gross’ commitment and service to the ESA as well as her dedication to furthering the scientific community.

“We are very pleased to see Kay recognized for her outstanding work and contributions,” said MAES director Steve Pueppke. “She is a testament to the high caliber of researchers with whom we are privileged to work. Her presence and participation in an organization such as ESA increases the credibility and visibility of the strong environmental and ecological research conducted by the MAES and MSU.”

Gross has been involved with the ESA since 1976 and has served as both vice president and president of the society. She has been broadly involved in the society and has made several contributions that still have large impacts today. Early in her career, Gross worked on establishing long-term archives of ecological data sets that are still used as a resource for ecologists today. She was also instrumental in the establishment of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, an organization that supports cross-disciplinary research by using existing data to address fundamental issues in ecology and allied fields and their application to management and policy.

More recently, she made a commitment to obtaining funding for postdoctoral students to continue their ecological research. Working with the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the National Parks Foundation, Gross was successful in establishing a postdoctoral fellowship program that supported research in U.S. national parks. During the 6 years the program was in place, it supported 20 fellows on 2- to 3-year fellowships. Gross has continued to work with the ESA to find continuing funding for this program after Mellon Foundation support ended in 2006. Despite this setback, she is still committed to finding financial backing for postdoctoral scientists.

“This is a critical time in establishing a successful career, particularly for women scientists,” Gross explained. “There is a gap between when students finish their doctorates and when they get jobs where there aren’t many places for them to secure funding. I want to create more resources for these students so that they can write their own proposals and fund their own research.”

Gross is also a university distinguished professor on the faculty of the MSU Department of Plant Biology.

Gross feels honored to represent MSU within the ESA.

“It’s quite an honor to be selected for this award,” Gross said. “It is very important for MSU to be involved in ESA. We have very strong programs in ecology and evolutionary biology and environmental sciences at MSU. Having faculty members such as me in national leadership positions raises the visibility of MSU programs in these areas and brings attention to just how good we are.”

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