Dr. Peter S. Ashton, former Director of the Arnold Arboretum and Bullard Professor of Forestry Emeritus at Harvard University, has been recognized by the United Kingdom’s Royal Society of Biology for his book On the Forests of Tropical Asia. This career-spanning work on forests and their dynamics, published in association with the Arnold Arboretum, was highly commended in the Postgraduate Textbook category.
The winners of the Society’s annual book awards–which celebrate outstanding biology books for the general reader and exceptional undergraduate and postgraduate textbooks–were announced on October 15 at Charles Darwin House, London, as part of Biology Week 2015. Judges called Ashton’s book, “a seminal work that is a tour de force of scientific scholarship and lucid writing. It is a splendid one stop shop to our knowledge and understanding of the Tropics.”
As forest resources diminish globally due to development and the pressures of climate change, On the Forests of Tropical Asia offers a timely record of current forests and a much-needed explanation of the role humans have played in their devastation. The culmination of Ashton’s nearly five-decades of research in Southeast Asia, the book is the first of its kind to describe the forests of the entire tropical Asian region, from Sind to New Guinea. Ashton combines existing research with his own experience and collaborations, creating a comprehensive understanding of forest variation while offering a framework for future research, policy, and conservation.
Peter Ashton first entered the forests of tropical Asia in 1957 as Forest Botanist in the Omar of Brunei’s government and spent a further five years as Forest Botanist in the Sarawak government. Since then his scientific work has focused on research projects to promote the conservation and sustainable use of tropical forests. He was instrumental in the formation of the Center for Tropical Forest Science, which surveys plots around the world to track and record global forest health. He has several plant species named after him, and has authored six books and more than 200 scholarly articles in the course of his career. His work has brought him many prestigious honors including the Japan Prize, the Linnean Medal for Botany, the David Fairchild Medal for Plant Exploration, and the Sultan Quaboos Prize from the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
A native of the United Kingdom and naturalized US citizen, Ashton received his B.A. in Biology (1956), M.A. in Biology (1960), and Ph.D Botany (1960) from the University of Cambridge. After serving on the botany faculty of Aberdeen University, Ashton was Director of the Arnold Arboretum and the Arnold Professor of Botany at Harvard University from 1978 until 1987. In 1991, Harvard named him the Charles Bullard Professor of Forestry, a post he held until his retirement in 2005.