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View Source | May 3, 2019

Old Main buildingBeing elected to the National Academy of Sciences is one of the highest honors for a scientist, and it also means that members are qualified to inform the president and Congress about issues related to their expertise. Two Arizona State University sustainability scientists, Nancy Grimm and James Elser, can now add that accolade to their already celebrated resumes.

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) is an honorific society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research dedicated to the advancement of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare of society. The academy announced Tuesday the election of 100 new members and 25 foreign associates in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.

Nancy GrimmThe NAS elected Grimm for her work in urban ecology, a relatively new field that took off in the 1990s. Earlier this month Grimm and nine others won the 2019 Sustainability Science Award from the Ecological Society of America for providing an international perspective on how ecological research focused on urban areas can improve sustainability. She was the founding principal investigator of ASU’s Central Arizona–Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research project, now in its 21st year.

Grimm’s NAS selection is also historic — 40% of the newly elected members are women, the most ever elected in one year to date.

“I think it’s fantastic and high time,” Grimm said. “In my graduate school years, it often felt like I was the only woman in my field, but that’s changed a lot. Women have contributed greatly to science and are finally being recognized — I am glad to be a part of that.”

Jim ElserElser, a research professor in ASU’s School of Life Sciences since 1990, said he was “shocked, dumbfounded and excited” when given the big news.

“I’m very proud not only for me but for all of the students I’ve worked with over the years that were along for the journey,” Elser said from Montana, where he is the Bierman Professor of Ecology at the University of Montana and the director of Flathead Lake Biological Station in Polson, Montana.

Elser, who is currently on appointment with ASU’s School of Sustainability, was a key player in the development of the theory of ecological stoichiometry, which considers how the balance of energy and elements influences living systems. He and his international team of collaborators seek to understand how the coupling of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus shapes the ecology and evolution of living things.

He played a major role in establishing ASU’s Sustainable Phosphorus Alliance and is now its director. Through these efforts, he seeks to help create a sustainable food system by closing the human P cycle.