CSU Professors Leach and Reid elected to National Academy of Sciences
Two Colorado State University faculty members, Jan Leach and Robin Reid, are among 120 newly elected members of the National Academy of Sciences this year, which includes a historic 59 women — the most women ever inducted in a single year.
The National Academy of Sciences, a nonprofit society of distinguished scholars, represents the nation’s most active contributors to the international scientific community. Scientists are elected by their peers to membership in the academy for outstanding contributions to research.
“Professors Jan Leach and Robin Reid are among the very best of what research universities have to offer the world today in advancing science and advancing the well-being of people and our planet,” said Mary Pedersen, provost and executive vice president of CSU. “Clearly, their elections to the National Academy of Sciences are an affirmation of the outstanding and significant contributions they have made in their respective fields. It is such an honor to have them on our faculty, and they join a very distinguished and growing list of CSU researchers who have been recognized by the academy as among higher education’s leading minds and influencers.”
Leach is a University Distinguished Professor and has been a faculty member in the Department of Agricultural Biology since 2004. She also serves as research associate dean for the College of Agricultural Sciences.
“This is such a tremendous honor, not only for me, but also for my many students, postdocs and longtime collaborators who have worked together to build capacity for a sustainable and food-secure future,” Leach said.
A plant pathologist with expertise in the molecular basis of plant disease susceptibility, Leach is an international authority on how to stabilize disease resistance and reduce crop loss. The impacts of her career are particularly felt in the area of rice science, where she has developed a library of enabling information, tools and resources for fundamental and applied discovery in rice and bacterial pathogens of rice.
Leach is widely recognized for her role in promoting solutions to grand challenges in agriculture, including the fact that the world’s population will increase by 2.4 billion in the next 35 years, and global food production will need to increase by 70%. For over 16 years, she served on the American Phytopathological Society Public Policy Board. There, Leach led the Phytobiomes Initiative, convening an international group of scientists to develop a roadmap for how the scientific community can address global challenges and ensure future food security. Leach is also a leader on campus of the CSU Microbiome Network, a consortium of faculty members working across microbiome disciplines.
Leach is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology. She is a member of the Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources of the National Academy of Sciences. In May 2019, Leach was awarded the Agropolis Fondation Louis Malassis International Scientific Prize for Agriculture and Food for Distinguished Scientist, and in August 2020, she was presented the APS Award of Distinction from the American Phytopathological Society, given only 17 times in that organization’s 112-year history.
Reid is a professor in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability in CSU’s Warner College of Natural Resources. She received her Ph.D. in rangeland ecosystem science from CSU in 1992. She describes her life’s work as using science as a catalyst for social change that promotes sustainability.
As a researcher, Reid engages cross-disciplinary teams working on linked social-ecological systems, particularly in the drylands of East Africa, Mongolia, Colorado, Alaska and elsewhere. She also has a strong interest in fostering collaborative conservation initiatives in the American West.
“It is an absolute thrill to serve as a member of the National Academy of Sciences at this point in history,” Reid said. “More than ever before, we need scientists to stand up and bring the best evidence to bear on very complex global problems. And it is a privilege to represent the concerns of many communities that I have had the honor to work with around the world.”
Reid was founding director of CSU’s Center for Collaborative Conservation, a role she served in from 2008 to 2019. The center is a hub of innovation to understand and promote stronger linkages between science, education and action on critical conservation and development issues in the U.S. and the world. The initiative has helped teams of faculty, students and practitioners achieve transformative change by putting conservation at the center of communities, economies and philosophies.
A senior research scientist in the university’s Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory, Reid came to CSU in 2008 from the International Livestock Research Institute in Nairobi, Kenya, where she led research, education and outreach on conservation and development issues in Africa, Latin America, Asia and the western United States. In that role, Reid co-produced research with Maasai community science teams, linking government policymakers, community members, non-governmental organizations and scientists. Her research focused on land-use patterns and dynamics, pastoral livelihoods, ecosystem conservation and ecosystem service payments in East and West Africa rangelands.
She also served as a Senior Fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, focusing on how to best connect science, policy and communities for sustainable conservation and development in forests and rangelands around the world.
In 2012, Reid and her team of community researchers won the Ecological Society of America’s Sustainability Science Award for their work transforming science so it serves community needs in East Africa. Since then, Reid has led national award-winning teams focused on scholarship and action on solution-oriented science for local communities. Her book, Savannas of Our Birth, tells the sweeping story of the home of humankind, East African savannas, and how these iconic landscapes have changed over time.
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