Secretariat of the International Prize for Biology, Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS)

International Prize for biology

32nd Presentation Ceremony, Acceptance Address, Selection Process

Presentation Ceremony was held
in the presence of Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress
on November 21st

     The recipient of this year:

Dr. Stephen Philip Hubbell,
Distinguished Professor, University of California, Los Angeles

On November 21st, a presentation ceremony for the 2016 International Prize for Biology was held at the Japan Academy in the presence of Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress, Mr. Koichi Hagiuda, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary, and Mr. Naoya Higuchi, Parliamentary Vice-Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. At the ceremony, Dr. Stephen Philip Hubbell was presented the Prize of ten-million yen and a medal by Dr. Toyoshima, Vice-Chair of the Committee, along with an Imperial gift from His Majesty the Emperor.

Congratulatory remarks were delivered by Prime Minister Abe (read by Mr. Hagiuda). and Minister Matsuno (read by Mr.Higuchi) .The ceremony ended with an acceptance address from Dr. Stephen Philip Hubbell. Following the ceremony, a reception honoring Dr. Stephen Philip Hubbell was held in the presence of Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress.

Reception Dr. Hubbell, holding Imperial Gift with his spouse



Dr. Hubbell, holding Imperial Gift with his spouse

Acceptance Address by Stephen P. Hubbell

Dr. Stephen Philip Hubbell   

Dr. Stephen Philip Hubbell

Your Majesties, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted and deeply honored to accept the 2016 International Prize for Biology. I am humbled that you have judged my work to be worthy of this Prize. Previous laureates include some of my greatest scientific heroes, biologists who have made enormous, fundamental, and lasting contributions to the disciplines with which I am most familiar: ecology, evolution, and systematics. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would one day join the ranks of such an eminent and illustrious group of scholars. Thank you so very much

First, I wish to thank their Majesties, the Emperor, and the Empress, for their long-term support of the biological sciences through the International Prize for Biology. In a recent editorial, the New York Times lamented that the Nobel prizes have not kept pace with the changing face of science in the modern world. I am grateful to the Emperor and Empress for a prize that recognizes achievements in the biological sciences that are increasingly critical to the future of humanity and the planet, including ecology, conservation biology, and evolutionary biology.

Second, I thank the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science and the selection committee members who I am certain spent considerable time and effort on the nominating and selection process.

Third, I honor my parents, Grace Griffin and Theodore Hubbell, both scientists, who taught me the intellectual pleasures of science and mathematics and the love of nature. My father, an entomologist and evolutionary biologist, took me on many expeditions to the Neotropics when I was a boy, where I became fascinated by the exuberance and variety of tropical life.

In my empirical work, I am indebted to my many students and colleagues for their dedication and passion to understand the extraordinary biodiversity of tropical forests. Robin Foster of the Field Museum in Chicago, and Ira Rubinoff, former Director of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, deserve special thanks. Robin and I launched the world’s first, 50 ha permanent tropical forest plot in 1980 on Barro Colorado Island, Panama. From these BCI roots grew a global network of large plots, all following BCI protocols. Ira was instrumental in establishing the Center for Tropical Forest Science—CTFS—the international consortium that maintains the global plot network.

I thank Peter Aston, Harvard University, who introduced me to the forests and foresters of Southeast Asia. Peter organized his Asian colleagues to set up plots using CTFS protocols. As a result, Asia now hosts the largest number of CTFS plots in the world. For this remarkable achievement, Peter Ashton was awarded the Japan Prize in 2007.

I also thank Richard Condit, Senor Staff Scientist of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute for nearly 25 years, and Liza Comita, Assistant Professor at Yale University. Both colleagues, in attendance today, have made enormous scientific contributions to CTFS, and they have also put considerable time and effort over the past two decades into training the next generation of CTFS scientists.

Regarding my work on the neutral theory of biodiversity and biogeography, I must thank Jayanth Banavar and Igor Volkov, then at Penn State University, and Amos Maritan at the University of Padua. These and nearly a dozen other physicists greatly expanded the scope and mathematical tractability of neutral theory, for which I am immensely grateful.

Finally, I thank Patricia Adair Gowaty, my wife and UCLA Distinguished Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, for her scientific collaboration, wisdom, and ethics over the past 20 years, and for her very helpful feedback from multiple readings of drafts of the neutral theory book.

And so, once again, thank you so much for this wonderful honor, which I share with my many scientific colleagues, on whose shoulders I stand.


Report on the Process of Selection

Dr. Hiroo Fukuda   
Chair, Selection Committee on the International Prize for Biology   

Dr. Hiroo Fukuda

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

On behalf of the Selection Committee for the 32st International Prize for Biology, it gives me great pleasure to report on this year’s selection process.

The Selection Committee consisted of twenty members, including myself. Four of our members were highly authoritative overseas researchers who were specially commissioned to serve on the Committee.

The field of specialization chosen for this year’s prize was the biology of biodiversity. The Committee distributed a total of 1,338 recommendation forms to Japanese and foreign universities, research centers, academic associations, individual researchers, and international academic organizations involved in this field of biology, and received a total of 82 recommendations in response. As some of these recommendations named the same individuals, the actual number of persons recommended was 72, from 24 countries throughout the world.

The Selection Committee met a total of four times and very carefully reviewed all the candidates. Ultimately, the Committee decided to recommend Dr. Stephen Philip Hubbell to the Prize Committee as the recipient of the 32nd International Prize for Biology.

After obtaining his doctoral degree from the University of California, Berkeley, Dr. Hubbell served as associate professor at the University of Iowa and staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, among other posts, then went on to hold professorships at Princeton University and the University of Georgia. He is currently Distinguished Professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Dr. Hubbell is the originator of the unified neutral theory of biodiversity and biogeography, which he tested by the unique method of establishing large forest census plots in tropical forests, whose high tree species diversity is well known, and using these plots to determine the community structure. This work not only made a major theoretical contribution regarding the mechanism by which diversity is generated and maintained in biotic communities, but also opened up a new phase in practical field research, and Dr. Hubbell has thus earned the highest reputation for his achievements in advancing the science of biodiversity.

In making our selection, the major criteria used by the Selection Committee were the relevance of the candidate’s research to the selected field of biology, its originality, its influence on the selected field of biology, and its contribution to advancing progress in biological science as a whole. We found Dr. Hubbell’s work to more than amply satisfy every one of these criteria and, on this basis, we judged him to be the most highly suited candidate to receive this year’s International Prize for Biology.

The Committee on the International Prize for Biology accepted our recommendation of Dr. Stephen Philip Hubbell and has bestowed upon him the 32nd International Prize for Biology.

With this, I conclude my report on the process of selection.

Commemorative Symposium for the 32nd International Prize for Biology

   On 22-23 November, a 2-day symposium, themed “Biology of Biodiversity,” was held to celebrate Dr. Hubbell’s winning of the 32nd International Prize for Biology. Cosponsored by the University of Tokyo and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science and held on the university’s Hongo Campus, the symposium featured a special lecture given by Dr. Hubbell and presentations on the latest advances in biodiversity research delivered by frontline researchers from Japan and abroad.

   The presentations delved into a wide variety of topics related to biodiversity, including evolution, the functions of eco-systems, mechanisms for sustaining biodiversity within biological communities, and efforts to conserve biodiversity. A large audience ranging from interested members of the public and students to researchers paid rapt attention to Dr. Hubbell’s lecture and the researchers’ presentations, engaging them in spirited Q&A discussions, which overflowed into the rest breaks.