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A Look Back at 2020 AAAS Award Winners: Science Diplomacy at the U.S.-Mexico Border

Exequiel Ezcurra has been named the recipient of the 2020 Award for Science Diplomacy by AAAS. | Neil Orman/AAAS

The newest of the eight awards that AAAS bestows to scientists each year, the Award for Science Diplomacy, has since 2013 honored an individual or a small group working in the science, engineering or foreign affairs communities to make an outstanding contribution to science diplomacy. In 2020, Exequiel Ezcurra received the award for his work that combines research, education, outreach and policy in service of environmental protection, particularly at the United States-Mexico border.

“I cannot exaggerate the influential role he has played in terms of tangible achievements in the conservation of nature,” said Rodolfo Dirzo, professor of environmental sciences at Stanford University, in a letter nominating Ezcurra for the award.

A professor of ecology in the Department of Botany and Plant Sciences at the University of California, Riverside, Ezcurra undertakes cross-disciplinary research that touches upon conservation science, ecology, biogeography, land-ocean interactions and the application of mathematical modeling in these fields.

He has a long history of translating scientific research into policy outcomes. A native of Argentina, Ezcurra completed his Ph.D. at the Bangor University in the United Kingdom. His studies of the ecology of the U.S.-Mexico border led him to a role as Mexico’s director general of natural resource protection in the early 1990s. In this position, he brought together U.S. and Mexican policymakers to establish Mexico’s first natural protected area along the border: the El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve.

Ezcurra also helped to create the first-ever agreement among Mexico, Canada and the United States to collaborate on wildlife and ecosystem conservation and management. The Canada/Mexico/U.S. Trilateral Committee for Wildlife and Ecosystem Conservation and Management has flourished since its creation in 1995.

More recently, Ezcurra was the director of the University of California Institute for Mexico and the United States, also known as UC Mexus, a bilateral research initiative to build cross-border academic collaboration between the U.S. and Mexico.

The winner of the 2021 Award for Science Diplomacy will be announced at the AAAS Annual Meeting, to be held virtually Feb. 8-11. Register for the meeting today.



Andrea Korte

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