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Liu honored with Gunnerus Award in Sustainability Science

An EEB sustainability scholar noted for his pioneering, holistic work connecting people and nature will receive The Gunnerus Sustainability Prize – the first major international prize for outstanding scientific work that promotes sustainable development globally.

Portrait of Jianguo "Jack" Liu
Jianguo "Jack" Liu

University Distinguished Professor Jianguo “Jack” Liu, Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability, is the fourth person to receive the honor, which is jointly awarded every other year by the Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences and Letters and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. The research prize comes with an award of 1 million Norwegian kroner (about $121,000).

“Professor Liu scores high on all the criteria that are absolutely central to the Gunnerus Award. He is outstanding in the areas of research, social impact and environmental footprint,” says May Thorseth, board chair and president of the society.

Liu has made extraordinary scientific advances in sustainability, stated the scientific committee's recommendation, which was unanimous.

Liu coined the groundbreaking concept of "telecoupling" socioeconomic-environmental interactions over distances, and is the leader in developing and applying the telecoupling framework to untangle the complexity of increasing globalization. His team’s research shows that human activity in one place on the planet can affect nature and sustainability in completely different places, including those far away.

“I am deeply honored and most grateful to receive this prestigious award,” Liu said. “This great honor also belongs to my students, postdoctoral associates, colleagues at Michigan State University, collaborators, funding agencies, and numerous others including my friends and family who have helped me in the past several decades.”

Liu takes a holistic approach to complex challenges where people interact with the environment.

Liu's overarching message is that no scientific basis exists for distinguishing between humans and nature. The two are inseparable, for better or for worse. Liu's research helps us deal with the various wounds and scars we expose our planet to.

He has been involved with some 380 publications, 26 of which have appeared in Science and Nature. He is one of the most cited researchers in his field.

Liu's scientific findings have contributed to positive environmental changes, especially in China. Examples are the conservation of pandas, better management of protected areas and practically a revolution in environmental protection in the country that has enormous implications for global sustainability and climate change mitigation.

“Dr. Liu’s exceptional scholarship superbly represents Michigan State University’s commitment to fostering engaged research that makes a sustainable impact to improve quality of life,” said MSU Provost Teresa K. Woodruff. “We commend Dr. Liu on this global recognition of his excellent contributions in support of sustainable development – especially for the ways in which his work has catalyzed actual policy change and broadened our collective understanding of the interconnectedness between humans and nature.”

Read the full story from the Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability