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NYBG Scientist Receives 2018 David Fairchild Medal

Posted in Personalities in Science on February 16, 2018 by Stevenson Swanson

Stevenson Swanson is the Science Media Manager at The New York Botanical Garden.

Charles R. “Chipper” Wichman, Jr., President, Chief Executive Officer and Director of the National Tropical Botanical Garden, presents the 2018 Fairchild Medal to NYBG’s Dr. Michael J. Balick. Photo by Lynda LaRocca

Honoring a career spanning more than four decades of botanical fieldwork and research around the globe, Michael J. Balick, Ph.D., Vice President for Botanical Science and Director and Philecology Curator of the Institute of Economic Botany at The New York Botanical Garden, has been awarded the 2018 David Fairchild Medal.

The Fairchild Medal, given by the National Tropical Botanical Garden, is the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a scientist who explores remote parts of the world to discover important plants and expand our scientific knowledge and practical understanding of them. It was presented to Dr. Balick recently at a black-tie dinner at The Kampong in Coconut Grove, Florida, the historic garden and former residence of David Fairchild, for whom the award is named.

David Fairchild was one of the greatest botanical explorers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He introduced thousands of important plant species and varieties to America, including soybeans, mangoes, dates, pistachios, nectarines, and avocados.

The National Tropical Botanical Garden, a Hawai‘i-based conservation, research, and educational institution, has given the award annually since 1999.

Dr. Balick is the third scientist affiliated with The New York Botanical Garden to win the Fairchild Medal. Professor Sir Ghillean Prance, who co-founded the Institute of Economic Botany with Dr. Balick in 1981 and is now a Distinguished Counsellor to NYBG’s Board of Trustees, received the medal in 2000. Dr. Scott A. Mori,  previously the Nathaniel Lord Britton Curator of Botany and now Curator Emeritus, was the recipient in 2007.

“It is an extraordinary honor to be in the company of those people who have won this award,” Dr. Balick said. “Some of my personal botanical heroes are among those who have received the Fairchild Medal. Over many years, I have been fortunate to have worked with many hundreds of talented people throughout the world in a quest to collect plants and document knowledge of their traditional uses. They all share in this award, as do my colleagues at The New York Botanical Garden.”  

There’s more here about Dr. Balick’s work, including the current research project that he and his NYBG colleague Gregory M. Plunkett, Ph.D., Director and Curator of the Cullman Program for Molecular Systematics, are helping to lead in Tafea Province, Vanuatu, with a team of local and international collaborators.

Congratulations, Dr. Balick!