A member of the Conservancy’s Science Council and a founder of the Natural Capital Project, Gretchen Daily has been named Laureate of the 2012 Volvo Environment Prize for her contributions to the field of ecosystem services.

Daily co-founded the Natural Capital Project—a joint partnership between The Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, Stanford University and University of Minnesota—to identify the economic value of nature.

People depend on ecosystems such as forests and coral reefs for clean water, fertile soils, food, fuel, storm protection, minerals and flood control. Healthy habitats even help reduce the spread of infectious disease. But putting a price tag on these benefits is no easy task. Since its inception in 2006, the project has developed practical tools and methods for measuring nature’s benefits.

While some critics say the value of nature can’t or shouldn’t be measured in terms of dollars, Daily disagrees.

“We’re talking about 21st-century environmental protection,” she says. Demonstration of nature’s economic benefits will spur investment in future protection of resources, she explains. One aim of the Natural Capital Project is to help governments, policy leaders and corporations better understand nature’s value and invest in its protection.

The prize also recognizes Daily’s expertise in sustainable development—she is a sought-after advisor on projects around the world that seek to conserve natural values while also enabling sustainable economic growth.

In addition to her work with the Natural Capital Project, Daily is Bing Professor of Environmental Science at Stanford University and a Senior Fellow at Stanford’s Woods Institute for the Environment. She is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

The Volvo Environment Prize is awarded annually to individuals for “outstanding scientific discoveries within the area of the environment and sustainable development.” The award—a prize of SEK 1.5 million (roughly $226,000 in U.S. dollars)—will be presented to Daily in November at a ceremony in Stockholm.

Learn more about the prize and its 2012 winner, Gretchen Daily.

(Image: Professor Gretchen Daily, Stanford University in California, and one of the world’s foremost experts on the valuation of natural capital is awarded the 2012 Volvo Environment Prize. Image courtesy of Volvo Environment Prize.)

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