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last updated: February 2015


John Cairns, Jr.

University Distinguished Professor of Environmental Biology Emeritus and Director Emeritus, University Center for Environmental and Hazardous Materials Studies

Department of Biological Sciences

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Blacksburg, Virginia  24061  USA


Cairns received the PhD and MS from the University of Pennsylvania, an AB from Swarthmore College and completed a postdoctoral course in isotope methodology at Hahnemann Medical College, Philadelphia.  He was Curator of Limnology at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia for 18 years and has taught at various universities and field stations.  Professional certifications include Qualified Fishery Administrator by the American Fisheries Society, Senior Ecologist by the Ecological Society of America, and the Academy of Board Certified Environmental Professionals.

Among his honors are Member, National Academy of Sciences; Member, American Philosophical Society; Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences; Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science; Foreign Member, Linnean Society of London; Founder's Award of the Society for Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry; United Nations Environmental Programme Medal; Fellow, Association for Women in Science; U.S. Presidential Commendation for Environmental Activities; Icko Iben Award for Interdisciplinary Activities from the American Water Resources Association; Phi Beta Kappa; B. Y. Morrison Medal (awarded at the Pacific Rim Conference of the American Chemical Society); Distinguished Scientist Award, American Institute of Biological Sciences; Superior Achievement Award, U. S. Environmental Protection Agency; Charles B. Dudley Award for excellence in publications from the American Society for Testing and Materials; Life Achievement Award in Science from the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Science Museum of Virginia; American Fisheries Society Award of Excellence; Fellow, Ecological Society of America; Doctor of Science, State University of New York at Binghamton; Fellow, Virginia Academy of Sciences; Fellow, Eco-Ethics International Union; Fellow, Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry; Twentieth Century Distinguished Service Award, Ninth Lukacs Symposium; 2001 Ruth Patrick Award for Environmental Problem Solving, American Society of Limnology and Oceanography; 2001 Sustained Achievement Award, Renewable Natural Resources Foundation; Morrill Chapter, Alpha Zeta, Class of 1944 as of 13 March 2002.  Cairns has served as both vice president and president of the American Microscopical Society; has served on 18 National Research Council committees, two as chair; and has served on 14 editorial boards; has served on the Science Advisory Board of the International Joint Commission (U.S. and Canada) and on the USEPA Science Advisory Board; was honored with the Special Session “Putting the Eco in Ecotoxicology,” November 18, 2008, by the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, Annual Meeting, Tampa, Florida; and was honored when the book Ecological Restoration: Principles, Values, and Structure of an Emerging Profession, Second Edition, 2013, by Andrew Clewell and James Aronson was dedicated to him.

The most recent of his 65 books are Earth’s Biosphere in Peril 2011, The Future Eaters:  Metaphors and Aphorisms as Environmental Teaching Tools, 2009, and My Quest for Sustainable Use of the Planet, 2005 (all available free online at

Graduate Committees Chaired:  M.S. - 25   Ph.D. - 49


PUBLICATIONS (Total = 1751)

(The 687 journal articles appeared in 179 different journals)


 Sole Author and/or Editor

Books Bulletins Chapters



Abstracts Editorials Electronic
19 1 216 324 28 123 110


 Senior Author

Books Bulletins Chapters



Abstracts Editorials Electronic
27 13 78 138 13 13 1


 Other Publications

Books Bulletins Chapters



Abstracts Editorials Electronic
19 14 86 253 269 6 0



Books Bulletins Chapters Articles Abstracts Editorials Electronic
65 28 380 715 310 142 111

Service on National Research Council (the operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering) Committees:

 1.     Panel on Freshwater Aquatic Life and Wildlife, Water Quality Criteria 1972, 594 pp.

 2.     Committee for the Working Conference on Principles of Protocols for Evaluating Chemicals in the

         Environment, Principles for Evaluating Chemicals in the Environment, 1975, 454 pp.

 3.     Committee for Study of Environmental Manpower, Commission on Human Resources, Manpower

         for Environmental Pollution Control, 1977, 427 pp.

 4.     Military Environmental Research Committee (Installation Renovation Subcommittee), 1977-79

 5.     Geophysics Study Committee, Geophysics Research Council Board (to produce report Scientific

         Basis of Water Resource Management), 1979

 6.     Five-Year Research Outlook (Chapter 8 - Water Resources)

 7.     Committee for Water Supply Reviews

 8.     Committee on Ecotoxicology (Chairman), Testing for Effects of Chemicals on Ecosystems, 1981,

         103 pp; Working Documents for Testing for Effects of Chemicals on Ecosystems, 1981, 157 pp.

 9.     Committee on Application of Ecological Theory to Applied Problems, 1982

10.    Environmental Studies Board (September 1980-October 1982)

11.    Task Force on the Ecological Classification System for Implementing Environmental Quality

         Evaluation Procedures, 1981

12.    Water Science and Technology Board (Founding Member), 1982-85

13.    Chair, Committee on Restoration of Aquatic Ecosystems:  Science, Technology and Public Policy,


14.    Committee on U.S. Geological Survey Water Resources Research, 1991-93

15.    Committee on Waste Disposal Options, 1992-93

16.    Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology (BEST), 1992-93

17.    Correspondent, National Academy of Sciences Committee on Human Rights, 1991-1998

18.    Report Review Committee (Final approval of all National Academy Press Publications), 1992-



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