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Liu recognized with World Sustainability Award

Michigan State University's Jianguo "Jack" Liu today has been honored with the World Sustainability Award for his leadership in integrating the needs of both humans and nature and succeeding in having the work translated into policy and practice.

Jianguo "Jack" Liu
Jianguo "Jack" Liu

Liu, the Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability and EEB core faculty member, shares the award with John Elkington, visiting professor at the Imperial College London and University College London. The two will split a $100,000 prize.

The World Sustainability Award was established in 2017 by the MDPI Sustainability Foundation to encourage new initiatives and developments in sustainability and is conferred to individual researchers or research teams who have made an outstanding academic or societal contribution to sustainability in general, or to a sustainability-relevant issue.

In announcing the award, the Foundation cited Liu's pioneering research that has "opened new frontiers in sustainability and greatly advanced the fundamental understanding of global challenges."

"I am honored and humbled to receive the World Sustainability Award, together with John Elkington. This recognition also belongs to my students and colleagues at Michigan State University, collaborators worldwide, friends, family, funding organizations, and other supporters. The prize money will be very helpful to expand our work on global sustainability," said Liu, who is director of MSU's Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability.

The awarders noted Liu's integrated concept of telecoupling (socioeconomic-environmental interactions over distances) and his efforts in leading the development and applications of the award-winning telecoupling framework. This framework helps disentangle the complexity of globalization and systematically expands sustainability science from a focus on specific places separately to human-nature interactions across distant places. It provides a powerful tool to uncover hidden impacts of human activities within specific places on sustainability elsewhere.

Many of his research findings have been translated into effective policies and management interventions, which have helped the recovery of giant pandas - a global wildlife icon, improved management of protected areas, and China's environmental protection with global implications.

"It is exciting to see Dr. Liu's exceptional work in sustainability recognized at this international level," said MSU Provost Teresa K. Woodruff. "His telecoupling framework efforts contribute to both the theoretical and practical aspects of sustainability science, resulting in translation research that significantly advances our understanding of the complex scope, and global impact, of human-nature interactions. This is MSU science the world urgently needs."

On Oct. 1, Liu will accept another prize -- Gunnerus Award in Sustainability Science - the first major international prize for outstanding scientific work that promotes sustainable development globally. It is conferred by the Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences and Letters and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

Liu is a University Distinguished Professor in the MSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, and a member of MSU's Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior Program.

Read the story in the Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability