UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — David Eissenstat, professor of ecosystem management and woody plant physiology in the College of Agricultural Sciences, and chair of the Intercollege Graduate Degree Program in Ecology at Penn State was awarded the Jessie C. Black Award for Excellence in Research.
The award, which includes a $5,000 cash stipend, recognizes significant accomplishments in agricultural research at Penn State. Eissenstat will be honored at the Gamma Sigma Delta ceremony on March 30.
Eissenstat's research focuses on the unseen part of the plant — the roots — and the impact factors such as climate change have on root physiology and root interactions with soil microorganisms, such as mycorrhizal fungi. Changes in root biology, as the result of different agricultural practices, can profoundly influence the productivity of fruit crop plants that are important to Pennsylvania.
The Eissenstat Root Ecology Lab investigates many aspects of plant ecology with a particular emphasis on the ecology of plant roots and provides undergraduate and graduate students with research opportunities. Eissenstat has advised 23 graduate students and 13 postdoctoral fellows and published more than 130 research papers. He also teaches ecology colloquium, root ecology and plant ecophysiology at Penn State.
"Dr. Eissenstat's work has significant impact for the field of agricultural ecology with wide-ranging implications for our food supply and ecosystems," said Gary Thompson, dean of research for the College of Agricultural Sciences. "Furthermore, his dedication to students and their research programs ensures that a new generation of scientists will continue to explore these important topics."
Eissenstat has received many other awards and honors over the course of his career. He is a fellow of the Ecological Society of America, was a visiting professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and received the Howard Taylor Memorial Award from the Soil Science Society of America. He has served as chair of the Intercollege Graduate Degree Program in Ecology since 2007 and has recently been a panel member for the National Science Foundation and for the U.S. Department of Energy's Terrestrial Ecosystem Science program.
"I have been so impressed with Dave’s ability to juggle the breadth and large number of issues that he encounters," said David Mortenson, professor of weed and applied plant ecology and former chair of the Intercollege Graduate Degree Program in Ecology. "He is seen as a national and international leader in his field of research and maintains the highest standards in research. The combination of his outstanding research work and his selfless leadership of our vibrant ecology graduate program make him very deserving of this award."
Eissenstat joined the Penn State faculty as an associate professor of woody plant physiology in 1994. Prior to his work at Penn State, he was an assistant and associate professor of root biology, physiology and ecology at the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences in the Citrus Research and Education Center.
He received a bachelor's degree in agriculture from Cornell University, a master's degree in range science from the University of Idaho and a doctoral degree in range ecology from Utah State University.