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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A Florida ecologist, Dr. Daniel Simberloff, has been appointed to the Nancy Gore-Hunger Chair of Excellence at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.

Simberloff, professor at Florida State University, is the first appointment to an environmental studies chair that honors the late sister of Vice President Al Gore.

“I established the chair to honor my late sister and her ideals for making our country and the world a better place to live,” the vice president said.

“Dr. Simberloff is uniquely qualified to head this program. He is an ecologist with a record of achievement and leadership. I know Dr. Simberloff will help develop this program to its fullest potential, and I look forward to its success.”

UT President Joe Johnson said the Chairs of Excellence program brings distinguished faculty members to UT campuses to lead instructional and research programs.

“We are honored to have the Gore-Hunger chair at UT-Knoxville, and we appreciate the interest and leadership of Vice President Gore in helping to create and fund it,” Johnson said.

Simberloff will assume the UT post in August, Dr. John Peters, vice chancellor for academic affairs, said.

“It was Vice President Gore’s desire that we find an internationally recognized teacher-scholar for the Chair of Excellence honoring his sister,” Peters said. “In Dr. Simberloff, we have such a person.”

At Florida State, Simberloff is the Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor in Biology. He was elected as a fellow in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1993.

He is a member of the board of governors of the Nature Conservancy and is a member of the species survival commission of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.

In recent years, Simberloff has worked in the development of the international park system, management of endangered species and creation of natural areas based on scientific principles.

Simberloff, who earned his doctoral degree at Harvard University, studies population and community ecology. Recently his research has focused on how species enter a new area, recolonize and affect native species.

Dr. Frank Harris, director of UT-Knoxville’s biology division, said the Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers Simberloff the opportunity to follow his research interests.

“Many of the grasses in Cades Cove are not native grasses. They were introduced in the course of the agriculture that has occurred there, and they are having an impact on the cove,” Harris said.

“One of the things that is attractive to Dr. Simberloff is the opportunity to work with the park service and the Nature Conservancy to create a center for the study of biological invasions.”

UT-Knoxville now has 16 Chairs of Excellence. They are supported with $500,000 in private dollars matched by an equal amount of state funds.

The vice president has contributed proceeds from his book, “Earth in the Balance,” to help fund the Gore-Hunger chair.

Contact: Dr. Frank Harris (423-974-6841)