Liu takes a holistic approach to complex challenges where people interact with the environment.
People and nature are one
Liu's overarching message is that no scientific basis exists for distinguishing between humans and nature. The two are inseparable, for better or for worse. Liu's research helps us deal with the various wounds and scars we expose our planet to.
Liu is a world leader in the work of integrating ecology with other disciplines, such as the social sciences, policies and various technologies that can help us understand and promote global sustainability.
“Dr. Liu’s exceptional scholarship superbly represents Michigan State University’s commitment to fostering engaged research that makes a sustainable impact to improve quality of life,” said MSU Provost Teresa K. Woodruff. “We commend Dr. Liu on this global recognition of his excellent contributions in support of sustainable development – especially for the ways in which his work has catalyzed actual policy change and broadened our collective understanding of the interconnectedness between humans and nature.”
World leader in integration
His work has led to increased research collaboration, communication, education and knowledge sharing with the general public. He is the founding director of MSU’s Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability.
Liu founded the International Network of Research on Coupled Human and Natural Systems (CHANS-Net.org), which promotes collaboration and communication among researchers from multiple disciplines worldwide.
He has been involved with some 380 publications, 26 of which have appeared in Science and Nature. He is one of the most cited researchers in his field.
Liu's scientific findings have contributed to positive environmental changes, especially in China. Examples are the conservation of pandas, better management of protected areas and practically a revolution in environmental protection in the country that has enormous implications for global sustainability and climate change mitigation.
Proposes concrete changes
“His critical work with ecological contexts and biological diversity is of great importance. In particular, he’s shown how different disciplines need to work together for sustainable development,” said Anne Borg, rector at the Norwegian university.
Professor Liu was a coordinating lead author of the global assessment of biological diversity and ecosystems conducted by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.
Liu’s appointment is in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Before coming to Michigan State, Liu was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard. He was also a visiting scholar at Harvard, as well as at Stanford and Princeton universities.
Liu has received a number of international awards and was elected to the American Philosophical Society (America’s oldest learned society) in 2015.
The Gunnerus Award in Sustainability Science is scheduled to be awarded on Oct. 1 during an event in Trondheim, Norway, barring a pandemic-related need to change the plan.
Previous winners of the Gunnerus Award in Sustainability Science are biologist Kamal Bawa, environmental researcher Carl Folke and ecology professor Sandra M. Díaz.
This story is reprinted from the MSU Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability.