Lawrence Gilbert, professor of integrative biology and director of the Brackenridge Field Laboratory at The University of Texas at Austin, has been named the 2012 Distinguished Texas Scientist by the Texas Academy of Science.
He received recognition at the academy’s annual meeting March 1-3.
Gilbert has studied the co-evolution of insects and plants, population dynamics, chemical and behavioral ecology, and evolution of novel wing patterns in mimetic butterflies. He is widely known for his research involving tropical Heliconius butterflies and their host plants, passion vines (genus Passiflora), and rainforest cucumber vines, Psiguria, a system he maintains in greenhouses at the university.
Gilbert and his research group are also responsible for introducing phorid flies to reduce the pest status of invasive fire ants. He is director of the Texas Fire Ant Lab, which continues to broaden its search for biologically sustainable solutions to the fire ant problem.
He has advised more than 40 Ph.Ds, many of whom were exposed to tropical systems in Corcovado Park, Costa Rica, where Gilbert developed a research field station in 1986. His former graduate students have pursued diverse studies of ecology, evolution and behavior in a variety of sites including Texas, Mexico, South America, Africa and India.
Born and raised in Texas, Gilbert received his bachelor’s in biology in 1966 from The University of Texas at Austin. He returned to the university in 1971 after getting his doctor’s degree at Stanford University. He has been director of the Brackenridge Field Laboratory since 1980. The laboratory is a unique property that has enabled important long-term field studies near campus and provides unique learning opportunities for students of the university.
Gilbert has taught countless students in courses such as field ecology, rainforest research, population biology and Plan II biology. He was chairman of the Department of Zoology from 1990 to 1999 and was a member of the Texas Board of Trustees of The Nature Conservancy from 2000 to 2002.
Other University of Texas at Austin faculty that have been named Texas Distinguished Scientist include paleontologist Ernest Lundelius, ecologist Eric Pianka, chemist Norm Hackerman, geologist Virgil Barnes, botanist Richard Starr and physicist Ilya Prigogine.