Dr. Justin Congdon, a senior research ecologist with the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, has been awarded the 2000 Longevity Prize by the Fondation IPSEN, a French organization that supports work in the field of longevity.
Since 1997 the annual prize has gone to researchers in such fields as biology, genetics, gerontology, demography and statistics. Congdon is the first ecologist to win the award. Congdon will receive 100,000 French francs and deliver a lecture based on his work with longevity in Blanding's turtles, in July 2001 at the World Congress of Gerontology in Vancouver Canada.
"It is an honor, and quite a surprise, be recognized by the Foundation IPSEN and scientists studying aging,? said Congdon. ?It is not often that a biologist working on a field study of life history evolution gets this kind of recognition, or any kind or recognition for that matter."
The primary focus of Congdon?s research is on the life histories of turtles. Aging is an important component of a life history. Over the past 26 years he has followed the lives of about 12,000 turtles. The first 1,000 turtles were marked there between 1953-1957, so he has been able to follow the lives of both young and old individuals. He said, ?I think that the demonstration that 60 - 70 year old Blanding's turtles have traits that support hypotheses based on evolutionary theory better than those predicted by the senescence theory is what caught the eye of the scientists at the foundation.?
Congdon's research includes studies of life histories, bioenergetics, and parental investment in long-lived organisms on the University of Michigan's research area, the E. S. George Reserve, and on the El Coronado Ranch in southeastern Arizona. He also studies sublethal effects of heavy metals and trace element pollution on organisms in and around coal fly-ash basins on the Savannah River Site.