American Academy of Arts and Sciences elects UMN faculty to 2018 class

Ruth Shaw

University of Minnesota Professor Ruth Shaw has been elected as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS), one of the nation’s most prestigious honorary societies.

A faculty member in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior in the College of Biological Sciences, Shaw studies ongoing evolution in plant populations. Her findings are used by state agencies to inform conservation and land management work. Adaptation to climate change and evolutionary consequences of severe fragmentation of plant populations are major themes in Shaw’s research, which focuses on clarifying the dynamics of evolutionary change in nature using a combination of quantitative genetics, population biology, and field experiments.

“Professor Shaw’s election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences is a reflection of her dedication to her life’s work and is a testament to her innovative work as a professor and researcher,” said University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler, a 2014 AAAS inductee. “It is also evidence of the enduring legacy of excellence of University faculty and staff.”

Shaw studies survival in six prairie plant species around the state and her results generate practical recommendations for managing prairie in a way that preserves genetic diversity as well as individual plants and patches. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources consults Shaw and her colleagues when making decisions about acquiring and managing prairie remnants in the state.

Shaw developed a new statistical approach known as aster modeling to predict from field data the fitness of individual plants and how populations are likely to grow or shrink. She also developed a suite of computer programs known as Quercus for analyzing the complex data to predict, for example, how quickly species might be able to adapt to changing climate.

“This is a wonderful and well-deserved recognition of Ruth and her work. Her research on the evolution of prairie plant populations, and in general, her statistical contributions to the field of population genetics are clearly having a major impact,” says College of Biological Sciences Dean Valery Forbes.

Shaw joins 61 previous and current members from the University of Minnesota.

The AAAS 2018 class includes 213 individuals who are among the most accomplished scholars, scientists, writers, artists, as well as civic, business and philanthropic leaders. The new class will be inducted at a ceremony in October 2018 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The full list of the 238th class of new members is available at

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