Press release

2018 UFW Research Award for Amazon research by Carolina Levis

Published on
March 13, 2018

The 2018 University Fund Wageningen (UFW) Research Award goes to Carolina Levis, researcher at Forest Ecology and Forest Management Group of Wageningen University & Research. She has been granted the award for leading an interdisciplinary research team of archaeologists and ecologists, resulting in a publication in the renowned journal Science. Carolina Levis received a certificate, a replica of the statuette ‘The Wageningen Tree’ and a sum of €2500 during the symposium ‘What is Life’, which took place as part of the 100 years WUR celebratory programme on 12 March.

Carolina Levis’s research team demonstrated that tree species in the Amazon basin, used by the indigenous population prior to the arrival of Columbus, play an important role in the composition of modern-day forests. This is the subject of fierce debate. The team overlaid archaeological data of habitation in the Amazon area on the distribution data of 85 tree species already domesticated in the pre-Columbian era. They showed that domesticated tree species are five times more overrepresented than species not selected by humans. These old species were found to be more common in forests close to archaeological settlements than in forests far away from these sites. The researchers conclude that part of the structure of the ‘untouched’ Amazon forest has a long history of influence by human settlement.

Carolina Levis’s team published the findings in the reputable journal Science (2017). In this journal she is the first author of an article with more than 150 co-authors.

Young leadership

The jury praises the leadership of the young researcher (aged 30), as well as her drive and creativity. The research is an excellent example of the jubilee theme of the 100-year-old university: Wisdom and Wonder.

The University Fund Wageningen presents the Research Award to a young WUR researcher (under the age of 40), who has published an excellent and original scientific article in the calendar year prior to the award. Jury members for the 2018 edition were: Rector Magnificus Prof. Arthur Mol, 2017 Research Award winner Dr Martin N. Mwangi, Professor of Animal Production Systems Imke de Boer, and Professor of Plant Breeding and Dean of Science Richard Visser.