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Top Shark Scientist Awarded Gilchrist Medal For Contribution To Marine Science In South Africa
Underwatertimes.com News Service
July 24, 2008 16:56 EST

SAN FRANCISCO, California -- The Shark Research Institute is proud to announce that Leonard Compagno, Ph.D. has been awarded the Gilchrist Medal for “outstanding contribution to the enhancement of marine and coastal science in South Africa, including the Southern Ocean".

The Gilchrist Memorial Medal was established in 1987 by SANCOR (South African National Committee for Oceanographic Research) in association with the South African Marine Corporation Limited (Safmarine) to be awarded to distinguished marine scientists. The Medal serves as recognition of the recipients’ contributions to marine science, to further stimulate excellence in South African marine science, and to focus attention on South Africa’s marine and coastal environments. SANCOR is now known as "South African Network for Coastal and Oceanic Research" and still administers the awarding of the medal.

Dr. Compagno has contributed enormously to the knowledge of cartilaginous fishes off southern Africa and world-wide. His scientific achievements have been broadly recognized and have led to several prestigious awards starting already early in his career with Harvard University and Stanford University scholarships for graduate work in 1965, followed by U.S. National Science Foundation postdoctoral award in 1972 and CSIR postdoctoral fellowship in 1983. He has held several distinguished positions, such as Professorship at Tiburon Center for Environmental Studies at San Francisco State University, and Research Associate at J.L.B. Smith Institute of Ichthyology.

Currently, Dr. Compagno is Honorary Research Associate at the Department of Zoology, University of Cape Town, Fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa, Regional Vice-Chair position and membership of the Executive Board of the IUCN Shark Specialist Group, and Director of the Shark Research Institute, headquartered in the USA.

In addition, he is Chief Scientist with Save Our Seas Foundation Shark Centre in Kalk Bay, and is the Founder and Director of the Shark Research Center at Iziko South African Museum in Cape Town.

The volume of publications Dr. Compagno has produced is truly impressive, several of his papers are among the most frequently cited items in chondrichthyan literature, and some, like the FAO Catalog of World Sharks (1984, 2001 and ongoing), or his original PhD thesis that in expanded version was published by Princeton University Press (Sharks of the Order Carcharhiniformes, 1988, reprint with new forward by Blackburn Press in 2003) are classics of this kind., including Sharks of the World (co-authored with Sarah Fowler and Mark Dando and published by Princeton University Press and Harper Collins), the first-ever field guide to sharks for the general public. Overall, there are more than 500 scientific items on his account published to date. His taxonomic work has been extremely prolific. Among the new taxa of cartilaginous fishes that he has described there are: six family-group taxa, ten genus-group taxa, 27 species to date (plus several published by his students), there is one new genus and five new species of southern African sharks, rays and chimaeras, and accounts of several new species in preparation.

Apart from the abovementioned distinguished achievements, he is a truly wonderful human being, often going out of his way to support, promote, and encourage younger colleagues – an attribute of only the greatest minds. This way, somewhat indirectly, he is influencing far more than just his collaborators and students but also numerous other scientists who will further advance marine biological sciences.

In recognition of his tireless dedication and enormous contributions, and the unique signature that he has already imprinted on the field of marine biology and far beyond, Dr. Leonard Joseph Victor Compagno was awarded the 2008 Gilchrist Memorial Medal.