Graham and interdisciplinary team awarded PNAS Cozzarelli Prize

Patricia Craig
May 05, 2017

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A paper coauthored by Russell Graham, director of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences’ Museum & Art Gallery and professor of geosciences, received the Cozzarelli Prize from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Each year, PNAS gives the award to the best published paper of outstanding scientific excellence and originality in the six broadly defined scientific areas of the National Academy of Sciences.

The paper written by Graham’s team was recognized under Class VI (applied biological, agricultural and environmental sciences).

Russ Graham

Russell Graham, director of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences' Museum & Art Gallery and professor of geosciences, receives the Cozzarelli Prize from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

IMAGE: Courtesy of Russell Graham

The paper, "Timing and causes of mid-Holocene mammoth extinction on St. Paul Island, Alaska," was among six papers selected to receive the 2017 Cozzarelli Prize. The Cozzarelli Prize is an award that recognizes outstanding contributions to the scientific disciplines represented by the National Academy of Sciences.

“I am honored to receive this prestigious award with my coauthors,” said Graham. “We are extremely honored to be among the select group of authors selected by PNAS to receive this award.”

The 2017 winners were recognized during the PNAS Editorial Board Meeting and the National Academy of Sciences Annual Meeting Awards Ceremony held on April 30 in Washington, D.C.

The award was established in 2005 as the Paper of the Year Prize and was renamed in 2007 to honor late PNAS Editor-in-Chief Nicholas R. Cozzarelli. The PNAS Editorial Board chooses six winning papers from the more than 3,100 research articles that appeared in the journal during the previous year.

The team’s paper details the most accurately dated 'prehistoric' extinction ever on the St. Paul Island, Alaska mammoths. The team used paleoenvironmental records to investigate the timing, causes and consequences of mammoth disappearance from the island and showed that the mammoth population died out because of the synergistic effects of shrinking island area and freshwater scarcity caused by rising sea levels and regional climate change. The St. Paul mammoth demise is now one of the best-dated prehistoric extinctions, highlighting freshwater limitation as an overlooked extinction driver and underscoring the vulnerability of small island populations to environmental change, even in the absence of human influence.

Also working on this project from Penn State were Soumaya Belmecheri, former research associate in the Department of Geography, now at the Laboratory of Tree Ring Research, University of Arizona; Brendan J. Culleton, research associate in anthropology; and Lee Newsom, associate professor of anthropology, now at Flagler College, Florida.

Other authors on the paper include Kyungcheol Choy, Ruth Rawcliffe, and Émilie Saulnier-Talbot, Alaska Stable Isotope Center; and Matthew J. Wooller, Alaska Stable Isotope Center and School of Fisheries and Ocean Science, University of Alaska, Fairbanks; Lauren J. Davies, Duane Froese, University of Alberta; Peter D. Heintzman, Beth Shapiro and Joshua D. Kapp, University of California, Santa Cruz; Carrie Hritz, AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow; and Yue Wang and John W. Williams, University of Wisconsin, Madison.

PNAS is one of the world's most-cited multidisciplinary scientific journals. It covers the biological, physical and social sciences, and mathematics and publishes cutting-edge research reports, commentaries, reviews, perspectives, colloquium papers and actions of the National Academy of Sciences. PNAS is published daily online in PNAS Early Edition and in weekly issues.

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Last Updated May 11, 2017