The 2021 Linnean Medal Has Been Awarded to Evolutionary Biologist Mary Jane West-Eberhard

Mary Jane West-Eberhard, a noted evolutionary biologist and a research associate in the department of biological sciences at Louisiana State University, is a recipient of the prestigious Linnean Medal for 2021. She was bestowed with the medal from the Linnean Society of London for her “significant contribution to the science of natural history and to the wider natural sciences community.” She is one of seven women to have been awarded the Linnean Medal in Zoology, which was first given in 1888.

Dr. West-Eberhard is a staff scientist emeritus at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, who has been based in Costa Rica since 1979. She spends several months out of the year in Baton Rouge as a research associate at Louisiana State University.

In her research on tropical social wasps, Dr. West-Eberhard has championed the important role of concepts including kin selection, which include behaviors that may seem altruistic but actually contribute to the survival of family members, and therefore, the transmission of shared genes.

“I was thrilled to receive the Linnean Medal because it focuses attention on the role of fieldwork and the integrative role of natural history in biology. Also, in its very long history, it has been given to some of my heroes of the past. It encourages me to keep on working!” Dr. West-Eberhard said.

Dr. West-Eberhard is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences. She holds a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, and a Ph.D., all in zoology and all from the University of Michigan.

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