2019 Distinguished Landscape Ecologist Award
Dr. Kurt Riitters, Research Ecologist and Team Leader at the Southern Research Station of the US Forest Service, will be awarded the 2019 Distinguished Landscape Ecologist Award by the United States Chapter of the International Association for Landscape Ecology (US-IALE) at their annual meeting in Fort Collins, CO, in April 2019. This is the highest honor bestowed by US-IALE and recognizes those unique individuals whose thinking and writing have helped to shape the field of landscape ecology.
Kurt’s academic record includes more than 150 publications, of which more than 20 have been cited over 100 times. His research has had a significant impact on landscape ecology. Three principles come from Kurt’s work: 1) pattern measurements must be fundamental, multi-scale, and robust to uncover pattern-process relationships across a wide range of processes; 2) the single-most fundamental measurement of pattern is amount, and; 3) patches are not a fundamental measurement of pattern. Kurt is also known for the clarity of his writing and thinking, contributing to the far-reaching impact of his research. As noted in his nomination letter, “One thing that Kurt does better than anyone else is to take a seemingly complex problem or set of information and boil it down to its core: an elegant statement or solution that is useful and understandable to a wide audience.”
As a young, aspiring landscape ecologist, Kurt met with Bob O’Neill – one of the founders of landscape ecology in North America - not long after publication O’Neill’s paper, “Indices of landscape pattern” (Landscape Ecology 1988). Kurt had written the code to measure 50 indices of landscape pattern, to which O’Neill remarked “You should be a landscape ecologist then.” Another outcome of the meeting was Kurt’s publication “A factor analysis of landscape pattern and structure metrics” (Landscape Ecology 1995). The paper has over 1,400 citations and is the second most-cited paper in Landscape Ecology (Wu Landscape Ecology 2017). Other highly-cited papers include: “Fragmentation of continental United States forests” (370 citations; Ecosystems 2002), “How far to the nearest road” (270 citations; Frontiers in Ecol. & Env. 2003), “Mapping spatial patterns with morphological image processing” (295 citations; Landscape Ecology 2007), and “An ecological assessment of the United States mid-Atlantic region: A landscape atlas” (196 citations; EPA/600/R-97/130).
Each of these papers had an impact beyond number of citations. One nomination letter recalled, “I received calls with a somewhat frantic tone from the EPA Office of Water after the “nearest road” publication, questioning whether it was true that the total road and stream lengths in the continental were about equivalent.” Collaborative research on morphological Spatial Pattern Analysis (MSPA) grew out of presentations Kurt gave in France in 2002 on the pattern metrics used in the continental forest fragmentation work. After 15 years of collaboration with the European Commission Joint Research Centre, MPSA has become the engine for a number of highly cited papers in Landscape Ecology and training sessions that truly have had a global reach, including sessions at US-IALE annual meetings for the past several years. The EPA landscape atlas generated new jobs: EPA formed a new group, aptly named “The Landscape Ecology Branch” because of the publication’s impact, and the new group created several new positions. The legacy of the Atlas is still strong, re-imagined with today’s technology.
In addition, Kurt has served US-IALE tirelessly over the past two decades. He was president of US-IALE from 2012-2014 and has served on several committees and has mentored the next generation of landscape ecologists. For more information about Dr. Riitters please visit:
The United States Chapter of the International Association for Landscape Ecology fosters landscape ecology research and practice. Details about the United States Chapter, and the International Association for Landscape Ecology, may be found at http://www.usiale.org and http://www.landscape-ecology.org.