MISSOULA – University of Montana Professor Diana Six will receive the 2018 Edward O. Wilson Biodiversity Technology Pioneer Award on Sept. 21 for seminal contributions to the understanding of bark beetles ecology, forest adaptations and climate change.

Presented by the American Computer and Robotics Museum and Montana State University, this prestigious award honors scientific, technical and literary pioneers who have made significant contributions to the understanding and preservation of the biodiversity of life on Earth.

Edward O. Wilson is an American biologist, researcher, theorist and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner who has written more than 20 books and hundreds of technical papers. He’s widely considered to be the world’s leading expert in myrmecology – the study of ants – and has discovered hundreds of new species. Wilson personally presents the award whenever possible.

Professor Diana Six examines a tree in the field. (Photos courtesy of Diana Six.)
Professor Diana Six examines a tree in the field. (Photos courtesy of Diana Six.)

“I’m incredibly honored to be receiving this award,” Six said. “It’s named for one of my heroes and one of the most important scientists of our time. E.O. Wilson has not only contributed in major ways to our understanding of the world around us, but he works tirelessly to develop approaches to address some of the most important issues we and the planet are facing.”

Six’s own work focuses on a different group of insects. A professor of forest entomology and pathology – insects and pathogens affecting trees – in UM’s W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation, she conducts research on bark beetle ecology and management, including how bark beetles may affect the ability of forests to adapt to climate change. Her latest study, published in July in Frontiers in Plant Science, found that mountain pine beetles may avoid certain trees within a population due to genetic differences that result in resistance. She also studies the evolution and maintenance of symbioses, particularly among bark beetles, ambrosia beetles and fungi. Her work includes extensive collaboration with scientists in the U.S., South Africa, Sweden and Germany.

Previous recipients of the Edward O. Wilson Biodiversity Technology Pioneer Award include Jennifer Doudna for seminal and pioneering contributions to the development of the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology; Dan Wenk, superintendent of Yellowstone National Park, for leadership and undaunted dedication toward the preservation of biodiversity in the park; Sir Alec Jeffreys, a professor in the Department of Genetics at the University of Leicester, for the invention of DNA fingerprinting; Lynn Margulis for the development of the theory of symbiogenesis; and UM Professor Emeritus Steve Running, for pioneering and seminal scientific work with climatology.

“Looking at the list of previous recipients, I must say I feel a bit overwhelmed,” Six said. “These people have had such enormous impacts in so many ways. It is very special to be included among them and to be recognized for my work using genetics, ecology and symbiology to develop a better understanding of bark beetle ecology and management and the potential for our forests to adapt to climate change.”

“Diana receiving this prestigious award is nothing short of fantastic and is very well-deserved,” said FCFC Dean Tom DeLuca. “She is a source of inspiration and a great researcher. It is wonderful to see her recognized for her creativity and dedication to her science.”

Both the Edward O. Wilson Biodiversity Technology Pioneer Awards and the George R. Stibitz Computer and Communications Pioneer Awards will be presented on Friday, Sept. 21, 2018 at Montana State University in Bozeman. A free public forum will be held at 7 p.m. in the Stand Union Building ballrooms. Doors open at 6 p.m., and early arrival is suggested.

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