Order of Merit for Martin Wikelski

At a ceremony in Radolfzell, Science Minister Theresia Bauer presented the Order of Merit of the State of Baden-Württemberg to the director of the Max Planck Institute for Animal Behavior.

September 02, 2021

Martin Wikelski, Director of the Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Animal Behavior and Honorary Professor at the University of Konstanz, is the recipient of the Order of Merit of the State of Baden-Württemberg. Science Minister Theresia Bauer presented the award to Wikelski today, September 2, 2021, at the MPI-AB site in Radolfzell.

Martin Wikelski receives the Order of Merit of the State of Baden-Württemberg from Science Minister Theresia Bauer.

Wikelski received the order for his services to science communication and the establishment of the globally recognized MPI of Animal Behavior. "With your research, you have gained valuable insights into how animals orient themselves on their sometimes long journeys and find their way to their destination. This is essential, not only for the protection of migratory animals, but also for the coexistence of humans with nature," the minister said in her laudation.

Reflecting on the accolade, Wikelski said: “I am incredibly humbled and honoured to receive this award, it is a tribute to the many people who have contributed over the last decade to making this location a leader in the study of animal behavior. Their commitment, energy, and vision provided the foundation for a scientific institute that  is pushing hard to understand and predict animal decision-making in the natural world.”

From the ornithological station to the center for behavioral biology

Wikelski returned to Germany in 2008 from Princeton University, USA, where he was professor of ornithology until 2016. As director of the then Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, he expanded the ornithological station in Radolfzell into an independent center for behavioral biology. "Martin Wikelski is a stroke of luck for the state of Baden-Württemberg," Theresia Bauer emphasized at the ceremony in Radolfzell. "In order to overcome the major challenges we face, such as the loss of biodiversity and climate change, we need such research facilities. And we need dedicated scientists who conduct top-class research and are equally committed to inspiring many people with their enthusiasm for nature."

The minister elaborated on the ICARUS project (International Cooperation for Animal Research Using Space), which Martin Wikelski founded in 2013. In this "Internet of Animals," as ICARUS is also known, scientists are working together with the goal of developing a satellite-based system for observing small animals such as birds, bats, or sea turtles. These findings will be used for understanding animal behavior, protecting threatened species, and predicting disasters ranging from the spread of infectious diseases to ecological changes to earthquakes and other natural catastrophes. Participating in ICARUS, Martin Wikelski’s "life's work," the minister said, are the MPI-AB, the University of Konstanz, the German Aerospace Center, and the Russian space agency Roskosmos.

"Baden-Württemberg's most visible biologist"

Wikelski’s tireless commitment has established the MPI-AB in Radolfzell/Konstanz as a center for modern behavioral biology that draws talented scientists from around the world. This success is owed, in no small part, to Wikelski’s skills as a "gifted communicator". He received the award, which is presented by the President of the Ministry for outstanding services to the state of Baden-Württemberg, explicitly for his services to science communication. He has a "genuine interest" in communicating the wonders of nature to a broad audience. The science minister said, "It is no exaggeration to say that you are Baden-Württemberg's most visible biologist who passes on his enthusiasm for nature."

About Martin Wikelski

Martin Wikelski is Managing Director of the Max Planck Institute for Animal Behavior in Radolfzell/Konstanz. Since 2016, he has been an honorary professor at the University of Konstanz, where he was professor of ornithology from 2008. Since receiving his diploma in biology from the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich in 1991 and his doctorate from the University of Bielefeld in 1994, he has worked in numerous renowned positions: He was a research associate at the University of Washington, USA, followed by a postdoctoral period at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. This was followed by several years as Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois and at Princeton University, both in the USA. With his professorship at the University of Konstanz, he also became director of the then Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Radolfzell.

In addition to active publication and public relations work, Wikelski is involved in numerous associations. Among others, he is founder and chairman of "Movebank" since 2006, chairman of the Migration Ecology Task Force on Wildlife Disease since 2011, and vice president of the German Ornithologists Society (2015-2019). Martin Wikelski has received numerous awards, including the Max Planck Research Award of the Max Planck Society and Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in 2016. He has been a member of the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina since 2014 and a Fellow of the National Geographic Society, USA, since 2017.

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