Stephen P. Hubbell, Ph.D.


Stephen P. Hubbell, Ph.D.
Stephen Hubbell
Distinguished Professor
University of California – Los Angeles
City, State
Los Angeles, California
Award year


Project Details

The National Council for Science and the Environment

During his Pew Fellowship, Hubbell established the Committee for the National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE). Supported by over 500 academic, scientific, environmental and business organizations as well as by federal, state and local government, NCSE works closely with the many communities that create and use environmental knowledge to make and shape environmental decisions. As an organization where diverse communities can find common ground, NCSE focuses on the role of science but does not take positions on environmental issues themselves.


Stephen Hubbell was pursuing a career in biochemistry when a trip to Honduras convinced him to pursue ecology instead. As a professor at the University of Michigan, he became active in teaching graduate courses for the Organization for Tropical Studies in Costa Rica. Later, at Princeton University, where he was a professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Hubbell continued academic research on the population biology of tropical trees.

In early 1999, results from one of his multi-year forestry studies revealed significant new information about what allows tropical forests to maintain such a diverse variety of tree species. Hubbell's findings have cast doubt on the "light gap" theory of ecology and logging approaches which are based on it. The light gap question is just one of a series of issues being illuminated by his research, an effort that he helped start nearly 20 years ago, to track the diversity of species in tropical forests. In the original baseline study, conducted on a 120-acre plot within a tropical forest on an island in the Panama Canal, researchers tagged 300,000 trees. They have gone back every few years to repeat the process. It takes a team of 15 people nine months to comb through the plot and update the data. The project's success led to a series of collaborations that eventually resulted in the creation of 15 other 120-acre sites in 12 countries, involving scientists from three dozen institutions.

In addition to his ongoing field studies and academic work, Hubbell took on a major public policy challenge: revamping the way in which the federal government approaches the issues of the environment. Pursuing his goal to establish a new federal entity, the National Institute for the Environment (NIE), Hubbell has led a broad coalition of supporters at the grass-roots and at high-policy levels from both the private and public sectors.



Ph.D., University of California Berkeley
1969: Zoology, California, USA

Bachelor of Arts, Carleton College
1963: Biology, Minnesota, USA


National Council for Science and the Environment
1991-Present: Chair

American Adacemy of Arts and Sciences
2003: Fellow


Marine Fellow
1990: Pew Fellows Program in Conservation and the Environment


  • Hubbell, S.P., R.B. Foster, S.T. Obrien, K.E. Harms, R. Condit, B. Wechsler, S.J. Wright, and S. Loo de Lao. 1999. Light-Gap Disturbances, Recruitment Limitation, and Tree Diversity in a Neotropical Forest. Science 283:554-557
  • Wills, C., R. Condit, R.B. Foster and S.P. Hubbell. 1997. Strong density- and diversity-related effects help to maintain tree species diversity in a neotropical forest. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 94:1252-1257
  • Condit, R., S.P. Hubbell and R.B. Foster. 1996. Changes in tree species abundance in a Neotropical forest: Impact of climate change. Journal of Tropical Ecology 12:231-256
  • Gilbert, G.S. and S.P. Hubbell. 1996. Plant disease and the conservation of tropical forests. BioScience 46(2): 98-106
  • Foster, R.B. and S.P. Hubbell. 1990. Floristic composition of the Barro Colorado Forest. In: Four Neotropical Forests (A. Gentry ed.). Yale University Press
  • Foster, R.B. and S.P. Hubbell. 1990. The structure of the vegetation and the species composition of a fifty-hectare plot on Barro Colorado Island. In: The Ecology of a Tropical Forest: Seasonal Rhythms and Long-Term Changes (E.G. Leigh, Jr., A.S. Rand and D.M. Windsor eds.). Smithsonian Institution Press, Herndon, VA, USA
  • Hubbell, S.P. 1990. Toward a global network of large-scale permanent research plots of tropical forest. In: A Century of Tropical Forestry: Results of the first half (A. Lugo ed.) Springer-Verlag
  • Hubbell, S.P. 1990. Toward a global research strategy on tropical forest ecology to meet conservation and management needs. In: Tropical Forest Research: Past Progress and Goals for the Future (A. Lugo ed.). Golden Anniversary of the Institute of Tropical Forestry, Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico
  • Hubbell, S.P. and R.B. Foster. 1990. Structure, dynamics and equilibrium status of old-growth forest on Barro Colorado Island. In: Four Neotropical Forests (A. Gentry ed.). Yale University Press, New Haven
  • Hubbell, S.P. and R.B. Foster. 1990. The fate of juvenile trees in a neotropical forest: Implications for the natural maintenance of tropical tree diversity. In: Reproductive Ecology of Tropical Forest Plants (K.S. Bawa and Hadley eds.). UNESCO/IUBS, Paris and Parthenon Publishing, Carnforth. Man and the Biosphere Series

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