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Heather Lynch Receives Prestigious Blavatnik Award

Heather Lynch

Heather Lynch, associate professor of Ecology & Evolution in the College of Arts and Sciences, has been named a winner of the Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists in the category of Life Sciences. The award includes a $250,000 unrestricted scientific prize.

Heather Lynch
Heather Lynch, PhD, is the winner of the 2019 Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists in the category of Life Sciences.
(Photo: Rolf Sjogren)


The Blavatnik Family Foundation and the New York Academy of Sciences announced the 2019 national laureates, honored for their work in the awards’ three disciplines —Life Sciences, Physical Sciences & Engineering and Chemistry. Nominated by 169 research institutions from across 44 states, the Blavatnik National Awards received 343 nominees – the largest pool of nominees ever received by the program for those 42 years of age and younger. Lynch was selected from 31 national finalists.

Lynch, who is also a faculty member of the University’s Institute for Advanced Computational Science (IACS), was named a national laureate by the award sponsors for “her unique synthesis of cutting-edge statistics, mathematical models, satellite remote sensing and Antarctic field biology to understand the spatial and temporal patterns of penguin colonies to predict population growth, collapse and possible extinction in the face of climate change.”

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“Big Data is a vital component in efforts to preserve our planet, for it is only through data driven interventions that can we strategically pursue a more sustainable future,” said Samuel L. Stanley Jr., MD, President of Stony Brook University. “Stony Brook University is proud to be a leader in research innovation, and this award is a testament to Heather Lynch, whose work will provide key insights on global ecosystems, and generate solutions to the most pressing issue of our time: climate change.”

 A faculty member at Stony Brook since 2011, Lynch has received international recognition for her research as a quantitative ecologist monitoring Antarctic penguin populations, including the Adélie penguin. Her work with Adélie penguins in particular has provided key data on the health of the Southern Ocean ecosystem.

Dr. Lynch in the field
Dr. Lynch in the field

Lynch and her colleagues use field surveys in concert with satellite imagery that tracks the size of penguin colonies in the Antarctic. Using her expertise with advanced mathematical modeling, along with collected data on the spatiotemporal patterns of penguin populations, Lynch can detect population declines predictive of penguin colony collapse.

 “Heather Lynch has once again proven herself an outstanding rising star at Stony Brook University,” said Michael Bernstein, Interim President of Stony Brook University.  “I congratulate her on this prestigious honor, and I look forward to seeing many more accomplishments from this extraordinary colleague.”

“I am so delighted that Heather Lynch is a Blavatnik Laureate,” said Nicole S. Sampson, PhD, Interim Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Distinguished Professor of Chemistry. “She is incredibly creative and her data driven approach to understanding penguin populations in Antartica is emblematic of the research process we need to understand our global ecosystem.”

 “It is wonderful to see Professor Lynch’s seminal work so deservingly recognized. She has established a new field of quantitative population dynamics at the continental scale, and her innovative synthesis of big data analytics, physics-based modeling, and ecological science represents the very best of the multidisciplinary approach to discovery that we pursue at IACS,” said IACS Director Robert J. Harrison.

For the first time in the 13-year history of the Blavatnik National Award for Young Scientists all of the recipients are women. The two other winners are Ana Maria Rey of the University of Colorado Boulder, and Emily Balskus of Harvard University, the laureates in the categories of Physical Sciences & Engineering and Chemistry, respectively.

“These three women are leading scientists and inventive trailblazers with stellar accomplishments in their respective fields,” said Len Blavatnik, founder and chairman of Access Industries, head of the Blavatnik Family Foundation and a member of the President’s Council of the New York Academy of Sciences  

The Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists provides the largest unrestricted scientific prize to America’s most promising, faculty-level scientific researchers.

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