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By Engela Duvenage, Faculty of Science Media Officer

Prof Steven Chown, director of the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology and professor in Zoology at Stellenbosch University (SU), is the 2009 recipient of the Gold Medal from the Zoological Society of Southern Africa (ZSSA).

According to the ZSSA, Prof Chown counts amongst the “zoological elite”, and has made significant contributions to all spheres of zoological endeavour locally and globally during his “most remarkable career” thus far.

The ZSSA Gold Medal is awarded annually in recognition for outstanding achievements in zoology in southern Africa over a number of years. Such achievements need not necessarily be limited to research.

Prof Chown received the award at the 50th anniversary dinner of the ZSSA that was held as part of the ZSSA’s annual conference in Durban.

“Through his research and publications Steven Chown has undoubtedly raised the profile of South African zoology at a global level and he has established research links with many of the world's zoological leaders,” the award citation reads. It further describes him as “a most remarkable biologist who not only explores detailed problems, but also has the ability to see the bigger picture”.

His research has shown the importance of integrating disciplines to further the understanding of biological processes, and has led to the publication of more than 230 scientific papers in a diversity of top international and national peer-reviewed journals. Prof Chown is also the author of two books, and has contributed chapters to 21 scientific books.

Prof Chown, a fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa, is an active member of several scientific societies, and serves as editor of two journals, and on the editorial board of six others.

The ZSSA also recognized his mentorship of students and up-and-coming researchers, and his ability to bring science into the public domain through interaction with the media.

Prof Chown completed his PhD in 1989 at the University of Pretoria (UP), after which he started his career as a lecturer in its Department of Zoology and Entomology. He rapidly rose through the academic ranks to the position of full professor in 1997.

He joined Stellenbosch University in 2001 as a Professor of Zoology. Three years later he was awarded the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology (CIB), a centre that has since developed an outstanding local and international reputation for the research being done on the impact and management of invasive plants and animals.

The ZSSA Gold Medal is the third feather in Prof Chown’s cap this year. Earlier this year he received an A1 rating from the National Research Foundation which recognizes him as a world leader in his research field. He also received the Bill Venter/Altron Literary Award for 2009, along with co-author Prof Sue Nicholson from the University of Pretoria, for a book on insect physiology.