Daniel Rubenstein

Daniel Rubenstein

Daniel Rubenstein is the recipient of the 2018 Sigma Xi John P. McGovern Science and Society Award. The McGovern Award has recognized achievement by a scientist or engineer that transcends their career as a researcher. Recipients of this award represent a broad spectrum of individuals whose varied activities supported research, the communication of science, and the impact of science on society. 

The award carries an honorarium of $5,000, a commemorative medal and the opportunity to make remarks at the Society's Annual Meeting.

Dan Rubenstein is a behavioral ecologist who studies how environmental variation and individual differences shape social behavior, social structure, sex roles, and the dynamics of populations. He has special interests in all species of wild horses, zebras, and asses, and has done field work on them throughout the world identifying rules governing decision-making, the emergence of complex behavioral patterns, and how these understandings influence their management and conservation. 

His science impacts society in many ways. In Kenya he works with pastoral communities to develop and assess impacts of various grazing strategies on rangeland quality, wildlife use, and livelihoods. In addition, he has developed a scout program for gathering data on Grevy’s zebras and has created curricular modules for local schools to raise awareness about the plight of this endangered species and to learn how to become wise ecological stewards of their lands. This was how he introduced ‘citizen science’ to rural Kenya. With a vested interest in sustaining their lands, pastoral communities have become effective and passionate data gathers and knowledge users as well as ambassadors who are transforming the way their lands are used.  

By using novel image recognition software, he has also enlisted the photographic efforts of hundreds of citizens from Kenya and around the world in performing non-invasive ‘sight-resight’ ‘rallies’ to produce the first accurate population size censuses of zebras, giraffes, and many other endangered mammal species. He has recently extended his work to measuring the effects of environmental change, including issues pertaining to the global commons and changes wrought by management and by global warming, on behavior of wildlife and livestock.

Rubenstein is the Class of 1877 Professor of Zoology, current director of Princeton’s Program in Environmental Studies, former chair of Princeton University's Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and director of Princeton’s Program in African Studies. He received his bachelor degree from the University of Michigan in 1972 and his PhD from Duke University in 1977 before receiving NSF-NATO and King's College Junior Research Fellowships for postdoctoral studies at Cambridge University. As the Eastman Professor, he spent a year in Oxford as a Fellow of Balliol College. 

He is an elected Fellow of the Animal Behavior Society as well as the American Association for the Advancement of Science and has received Princeton University's President's Award for Distinguished Teaching. He has just completed his term as president of the Animal Behavior Society and was most recently a Visiting Research Scholar at Merton College, Oxford. He will receive the Animal Behavior Society’s Exemplar Award recognizing ‘a major long-term contribution in animal behavior’ and will begin a visiting Fellowship at King’s College, Cambridge, in the fall of 2018. He serves on many boards of nonprofit organizations including a local land trust, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, and EarthWatch Institute, as a champion of citizen science.