2013 President’s Award: Pierre Legendre

 

Pierre Legendre with a commemorative fish sculpture presented at the CSEE Kelowna conference, following the 2013 President's Award address.

Pierre Legendre with a commemorative fish sculpture presented at the CSEE Kelowna conference, following the 2013 President’s Award address.

 A review paper associated with this award was published in Proc R Soc B, 2014

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Introduction to the 2013 CSEE President’s Award Lecture – Jeff Hutchings

Good afternoon, my name is Jeff Hutchings, and I am President of the Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution.  Bonjour mesdames et messieurs. En tant que Président de la Société canadienne d’écologie et d’évolution, je suis très heureux de présenter à Pierre Legendre, Département de sciences biologiques, Université de Montréal, le Prix de la présidence de 2013. C’est la troisième fois que ce prix a été présenté par la société. Je suis très heureux de saluer les lauréats précédents, Charles Krebs et David Schindler, qui sont tous les deux présents à cette réunion. Welcome to both Charley and Dave.

Et maintenant, pour ceux qui ne comprennent pas le français et, plus important, pour la santé de vos oreilles, je vais continuer en anglais.

Pierre Legendre is recognized by the President’s Award for his seminal contributions to numerical ecology, ecological statistics, and the study of various facets of spatial and temporal scales in ecology.

Interestingly his initial research followed in the footsteps of those of his father, well known to Canadian fish biologists and ichthyologists, Vianney Legendre. For those of you unfamiliar with the particulars of Vianney Legendre’s work, you might know of one of the fish that he described – the copper redhorse…in 1952 – which appears on the label of a Quebec beer called ‘Rescousse’.

Pierre Legendre’s master’s research at McGill University focused on hybridization in fish of the genus Phoxinus, a member of the minnow, or cyprinid, family. One species, the finescale dace, is known to reproduce with the congeneric northern redbelly dace, and to produce hybrid offspring that are always female. Typically, hybrid females breed with male redbelly dace, but the male’s genetic material is not incorporated during egg development and is not passed on to the next generation. The offspring are all female and clones of the mother. It was this work that particularly stimulated Pierre’s interest in chromosomes and genetics.

After completing his MSc degree in Zoology in 1969, he moved to Boulder, Colorado, in the US where he completed his doctoral degree in 1971. It was in Colorado where his interest and expertise in mathematical ecology began to mature with his work on cluster analysis.

Two different degrees in two different countries being insufficient, he then moved to Scandinavia where he undertook postdoctoral research in Lund, Sweden. Following his return to Canada in 1972, he took a position initially at Université du Québec à Montréal, before moving to Université de Montréal in 1980, where he has remained since.

Prof. Legendre is a mathematician, a modeler, a numerical ecologist. The title of his first paper foretold his research career. It is entitled: “A mathematical model for the entities species and genus” published in the journal Taxon. His work speaks to the incomparable strength and utility of models. It speaks to the breadth of research questions in ecology and evolution to which models can be applied. A modeller is not constrained by the taxonomic restrictions that most of us impose upon ourselves during our research careers. This makes the modeler the ideal collaborator, and Pierre Legendre’s voluminous curriculum vitae reflects this exceedingly well.

He has authored more than 250 papers in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. Among these, more than 30 have been cited more than 100 times. And 4 – all dealing with spatial patterns in ecology — have been cited more than 1000 times each. This is a remarkable testament to the extraordinary degree to which his science is valued by his peers.

In addition to his publications, one must also draw attention to the extraordinary success of his books, which include the highly cited Numerical Ecology (most recent edition in 2012) and Numerical Ecology with R (2011).

Among his many awards (including several for teaching excellence), Prof. Legendre is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada; he is recipient of the Royal Society of Canada’s Romanowski Medal (environmental science); he was awarded the 2005 Prix Marie-Victorin from the Government of Québec; in 2007, he was made an Officer of the National Order of Québec; and in 2012 he received the Career Achievement Award from the Canadian Council of University Biology Chairs.

The President’s Award of the CSEE is an award of recognition given biennially for outstanding contributions to the sciences embraced by the Canadian Society For Ecology and Evolution. It is the highest honour bestowed by the Society. Will you please join me in welcoming the 2013 recipient of the President’s Award, Pierre Legendre.

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