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ASU professor reaches ‘pinnacle’ of aquatic sciences with 2 awards

Ecosystem ecologist Nancy Grimm honored for lifelong achievements

Portrait of Professor Nancy Grimm

Nancy Grimm is the Virginia M. Ullman Professor of Ecology and Regents Professor of life sciences at ASU. An ecosystem ecologist, she studies the interactions of climate change, human activities, resilience and biogeochemical processes in urban and stream ecosystems.

April 26, 2023

Nancy Grimm, Virginia M. Ullman Professor of Ecology and Regents Professor of life sciences at Arizona State University, has been recognized with two major awards for her contributions to the science of stream ecology and biogeochemistry in urban and inland waters. 

The Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography, or ASLO, has awarded Grimm their 2023 A.C. Redfield Lifetime Achievement Award, presented annually to honor an aquatic scientist for major, long-term achievements in the fields of limnology and oceanography, including research, education and service to the community and society. 

“Dr. Nancy Grimm’s influence on the field of stream ecology and urban ecology is far reaching and widely felt by the aquatic science community,” said Pat Glibert, president of the association. “ASLO is pleased to award the A.C. Redfield Lifetime Achievement Award to our colleague Nancy Grimm, whose exceptional scientific distinction is equally matched by her generosity and commitment to serve the community.”

Additionally, the Society for Freshwater Science has just announced Grimm is the recipient of their 2023 Award of Excellence. 

“Our Career Awards recognize the best among us for their contributions to freshwater research and environmental policy,” said Steve Thomas, president of the society. “The work of our recipients advances freshwater science and leads to actions that improve environmental justice across the globe.”

Grimm is an ecosystem ecologist who studies the interactions of climate change, human activities, resilience and biogeochemical processes in urban and stream ecosystems. 

Her lab studies how disturbances, such as flooding or drying, affect desert streams; how chemicals move through and cycle within both desert streams and cities; the effects of stormwater infrastructure on water and material movement across an urban landscape; and the effect of extreme events on urban areas and their people and infrastructure.

Grimm has had an international impact in the environmental sciences and is a pioneer in desert stream ecosystems. Her collaborations across the disciplines of earth, life and social sciences, as well as engineering, helped greatly expand the subdiscipline of urban ecology. 

“Although my recent research has focused more on urban social-ecological-technological systems, I never lost my fascination for desert streams, and I am delighted to be recognized for that body of research. I’ve been a member of these two societies for more than four decades, and I always viewed these awards as the pinnacle of a person’s career in aquatic sciences. It is such an honor — and surprise — to receive both awards in the same year,” she said.

Grimm has made numerous and sustained contributions to the field, from her work describing nitrogen cycling in desert streams to her contributions leading to the discovery of the significance of the hyporheic (sub-surface) zone in streams. 

Her collaborative research in urban social-ecological-technological systems centers on nature-based, technological and governance solutions that can build resilience for a future with increased frequency and magnitude of extreme events.

She currently co-directs the international network of networks, NATure-based solutions for Urban Resilience in the Anthropocene, or NATURAwhich focuses on urban resilience to weather-related extreme events, and the graduate scholars network, Earth Systems Science for the Anthropocene, or ESSA. 

Together with students and colleagues, she has published over 200 peer-reviewed articles that have been cited over 40,000 times. 

“My accomplishments would really be nothing without the fantastic students, postdocs and colleagues I’ve worked with over the years,” she said. “I am honored to be recognized in this way, but also so grateful to these scientists for their contributions to our science — and to the fun that we’ve had working together.”

In addition to her distinguished scientific achievements, Grimm has consistently given back to the community through service and mentorship. She has individually supervised dozens of undergraduates, graduate students and post-doctoral researchers, and has worked on several successful professional training programs for students and early career researchers. 

These include the Central Arizona–Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research program, or CAP LTER; the development of an National Science Foundation-sponsored interdisciplinary graduate education and research training program for urban ecology at ASU; and a mentoring and training program for scores of graduate and postdoctoral fellows across multiple institutions in the Urban Resilience to Extremes Sustainability Research Network and in ASU’s ESSA network.

“Nancy Grimm is a remarkable scientist, educator and mentor,” said ASU School of Life Sciences Director Nancy Manley. “Her pioneering contributions to the environmental sciences will continue to shape our understanding of ecosystem and urban ecology for years to come. I’m delighted to see her work recognized through these awards.”

The Society for Freshwater Science

The Society for Freshwater Science is a premier international organization for aquatic scientists, educators, managers and policymakers. Its purpose is to promote further understanding of freshwater ecosystems (rivers, streams, lakes, reservoirs and estuaries) and ecosystems at the interface between aquatic and terrestrial habitats (wetlands, bogs, fens, riparian forests and grasslands). 

Nancy Grimm will be recognized virtually during the Society for Freshwater Science’s annual meeting in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. 

The Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography

The Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography is an international aquatic science society that was founded in 1948. For more than 70 years, it has been the leading professional organization for researchers and educators in the field of aquatic science. The purpose of ASLO is to foster a diverse, international scientific community that creates, integrates and communicates knowledge across the full spectrum of aquatic sciences, advances public awareness and education about aquatic resources and research, and promotes scientific stewardship of aquatic resources for the public interest. 

Nancy Grimm will be recognized in person at the 2023 Aquatic Sciences Meeting in Palma, Mallorca, Spain, in June 2023.