Inaugural Award Presented to Emeritus UNLV Professor

Jan. 22, 2013

The Center for Biological Diversity has awarded UNLV distinguished professor emeritus James Deacon the first annual E.O. Wilson Award for Outstanding Science in Biodiversity Conservation.

Over the course of his career, Deacon has focused on conservation of desert fish and other freshwater species and on sustainable water-use advocacy in the Southwest. His work contributed to the protection of several threatened and endangered aquatic species, helped secure water rights for Death Valley and Zion national parks, and helped create Ash Meadows and Moapa national wildlife refuges in Nevada.

“Dr. Deacon’s relentless commitment to preserving life in some of its rarest forms, and to conserving the limited resources that sustain us all, makes it a great honor to recognize his life’s work with this award,” said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center. “His remarkable career exemplifies the leadership role scientists must take in helping us to better understand and protect the biodiversity of our planet.”

Of winning the award, Deacon said, “It was a complete surprise and an appreciated recognition of the work I’ve done over the course of my career. Wilson is one of the most respected biologists in the world and has been extremely influential in conservation biology.”

The award will be presented annually to a scientist who has made an outstanding contribution to biodiversity conservation. It is named after renowned scientist Edward O. Wilson of Harvard University, known as “the father of biodiversity.”

The award consists of a handcrafted ant sculpture by artist Anne Bujold and a $1,000 cash prize.

Deacon has published more than 90 scientific articles focused on the ecology and conservation biology of desert fish and other imperiled aquatic species. He has served as an expert witness in state and federal water-rights litigation, and has been involved in development of recommendations for water-quality standards and flow criteria essential to maintenance of ecosystem health and biodiversity. He completed his Ph.D. at the University of Kansas in 1960 and immediately joined the University of Nevada Las Vegas faculty, where he helped create the university’s bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. programs in biology and environmental studies. He retired in 2002 and has served as chair in both departments and continues his research and advocacy work with projects in Death Valley, Devils Hole and the eastern/central Nevada water project.

Deacon is currently working on a chapter to be published in a book being edited by UNLV geoscientist Steve Rowland and another colleague in Denver. The subject of the chapter is the Devils Hole story. Deacon has been working on Devils Hole pupfish his entire career at UNLV.