McGill named 2020 recipient of Outstanding Research Award

The Outstanding Research Award honors faculty who make significant contributions to their profession and have demonstrated excellence in scholarship. It is among the most prestigious faculty awards bestowed by the College of Natural Sciences, Forestry, and Agriculture.

When it comes to ecology, Brian McGill thinks big.

The professor of biological sciences studies biodiversity on grand scales of space and time to predict how climate change and human activity will impact species distribution and community structure. Knowing where species are headed is critical to those making conservation and management decisions.

McGill has contributed significant thought leadership to his field of macroecology. His work established the importance of prediction in ecology and identified unifying principles in the field. He also spearheaded initiatives to address conceptual issues in his discipline related to the widely used and vaguely defined term biodiversity. McGill and his colleagues developed a series of scientifically measurable concepts to resolve this long-standing source of ambiguity in the field of ecology and provided concrete tools to better measure and assess biodiversity in management contexts.

Through the blog Dynamic Ecology, McGill and two coauthors shape the way research is conducted in labs across the planet and initiate global conversations on pressing ecological questions. The blog, with 700,000 visits per year, is the most widely read in academic ecology.

His research has garnered more than $12 million in external funding and been the focus of 84 peer-reviewed papers in the past ten years. McGill’s findings are cited so frequently that he was named one of the 2019 Highly Cited Researchers worldwide by the Web of Science Group.

He also advances the work of others as Editor-in-Chief of Global Ecology and Biogeography and formerly as associate editor of Frontiers of Ecology and Environment, American Naturalist, and Global Ecology and Biogeography. McGill’s other contributions include reviewing dozens of papers each year and serving on NASA grant review panels and professional society award committees.

At UMaine, where he holds a joint appointment in the School of Biology and Ecology and the Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions and a cooperating appointment in the Climate Change Institute, he has mentored future scientists by serving on two dozen graduate student committees and teaching courses that are anchors in UMaine’s graduate environmental science programs.

His numerous awards include being elected a Fellow of the Ecological Society of America, an honor bestowed to approximately 250 of the society’s 9,000 members.