Paleobiologist David Jablonski awarded 2022 Darwin-Wallace Medal

April 12, 2022

Prof. David Jablonski

The 2022 Darwin-Wallace Medal from The Linnean Society of London has been awarded to paleobiologist David Jablonski in honor of his making major advances in evolutionary science.

Jablonski is the University of Chicago William R. Kenan, Jr., Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of the Geophysical Sciences, Department of Organismal Biology & Anatomy, and the Committee on Evolutionary Biology. 

The Linnean Society recognized him for being one of the most influential and innovative paleobiologists and a leader in the use of large-scale data sets to investigate macroevolutionary patterns over diverse temporal scales and levels in taxonomic hierarchy. He was praised as a tireless advocate for paleobiology, and, more broadly, evolutionary biology. Only three other paleontologists have received this Medal since it was first awarded in 1909.

Working with organisms from mollusks to birds, sea urchins to sea lilies, Jablonski is interested in spatial and environmental histories of evolutionary lineages and the origin of major evolutionary novelties in time and space. His worldwide integration of fossil and living species produced the influential “Out of the Tropics” Model, which views the tropics as the global engine of biodiversity. 

Expanding his research on lineages to encompass their form and function, he and his students and collaborations have amassed an extensive library of 3-D images of molluscan shells using the scanning facility housed on campus in the Department of Organismal Biology & Anatomy, often in partnerships with researchers at the Field Museum, the Smithsonian, and other museums. He also looks at the dramatic evolutionary bursts that happen after mass extinctions and the biodiversity that can be found in the aftermath. He discovered and named the “dead-clade walking” phenomenon, pinpointing lineages that survive extinctions but fail to thrive afterwards, and examining their implications for today’s biodiversity.

"David Jablonski has one of the keenest synthetic minds I have ever known,” said Louis Block Distinguished Service Professor and Interim Chair of the Department of the Geophysical Sciences Michael Foote. “He develops and integrates diverse forms of data and theory from geological and biological sciences; he has an outstanding talent for communication; and he has tirelessly mentored countless students and postdocs. Dave has thereby shaped and advanced paleontology and evolutionary biology for generations to come."

“I’m so grateful to the Linnean Society for this amazing honor and to the University of Chicago,” said Jablonski. “Getting to work with the spectacular UChicago students and faculty within and across departments and divisions, often via the Committee on Evolutionary Biology, has made all the difference for my research—it’s the richest intellectual environment I’ve seen anywhere.”

To read more about the 2022 Darwin-Wallace Medal, read The Linnean Society announcement.

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