Prof. dr hab. Jan Kozłowski_by One HD

Prof. Jan Kozłowski of the Institute of Environmental Sciences at Jagiellonian University has received the Foundation for Polish Science Prize 2016 in the life and earth sciences for formulation and experimen­tal verification of a theory explaining the diversity of life strategies of organisms resulting from optimal allocation of resources.

Prof. Jan Kozłowski (born in 1946 in Poznań) is an evolutionary ecologist and a head of the Life History Evolution research team at the Institute of Environmental Sciences at Jagiellonian University in Kraków.

Since the beginning of his scientific career he has been affiliated with Jagiellonian University, where he earned in his doctorate in 1976 and his postdoctoral degree in 1986. In 1981–1983 he held a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Georgia. He was named a professor in 1996. He has worked at Jagiellonian University since 1975. In 1991–2003 he was the deputy director of the Institute of Environmental Biology, and director of that unit in 2003–2008, now known as the Institute of Environmental Sciences.

Prof. Kozłowski is a corresponding member of the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN) and an active member of the Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences (PAU), the European Society for Evolutionary Biology and the Society for Experimental Biology. In 2008–2016 he chaired the PAN Committee on Evolutionary and Theoretical Biology. He has served on the editorial board of Ecology Letters, Functional Ecology and Journal of Evolutionary Biology.

He is a laureate of the MISTRZ/MASTER programme of the Foundation for Polish Science as well as the MAESTRO programme of the National Science Centre. At Jagiellonian University he has directed several projects involving a theory of the evolution of life strategies based on optimal allocation of resources between growth and reproduction. He has also participated in projects verifying this theory using the example of the zebra mussel and the duck mussel. In the last decade he has studied the influence of cell size on the life strategies of warm-blooded and poikilotherm organisms.

Most of Kozłowski’s works have appeared in renowned journals such as Integrative & Comparative Biology, Evolutionary Ecology Research, PNAS, Functional Ecology, OIKOS, Ecology Letters, American Naturalist, Theoretical Population Biology, Evolution, Ecological Modelling, Journal of Experimental Biology, TREE, Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B, and PLOS One. Kozłowski is also the author or co-author of chapters in books published by Blackwell, Wiley, and Oxford University Press.

The Foundation for Polish Science Prize is awarded for the theory of the evolution of life histories of organisms developed by Prof. Jan Kozłowski. The key to development of the theory was a theoretical essay published in 1992 in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution, where he described how organisms distribute their available resources for purposes of growth and reproduction and how this influences the age of maturity and body mass.

This theory explains the great variation in age of maturity, body size of adults and the size of cells, as well as the lifespan of living organisms. This makes it possible to predict under which conditions animals will grow intensively after achieving maturity, and under which will not. It also explains why certain species produce many small eggs and others a few large ones. Depending on life strategy, organisms allocate their resources differently, or, in economic terms, optimally invest their resources in growth, reproduction, and maintaining the body in good condition. The best method of investment for a given species depends on environmental food resources and the risk of death.

Life strategies are genetically conditioned and should enable the optimal passing on of genes to the next generation under the given conditions. Thus, for example, insects, fish and amphibians typically generate numerous offspring, but many of the young die before reaching maturity. A radically different strategy is laying a few well-endowed eggs or giving birth to a few young, which is often combined with caring for the offspring. In this strategy, most or at least a significant portion of individuals pass on genes to successive generations. How long the representa­tives of particular species live does not depend on the type of strategy pursued.

In his research, Prof. Kozłowski has modelled the optimal allocation of resources to growth, reproduction and other life functions. In animals he has studied the connection between body size and cell size and the speed of metabolism, i.e. conversion of matter. He has examined aging as an evolutionary issue. His research perspective has also helped explain why significant differences in body size can occur within a single population. Linking cell size with the rate of metabolism sheds new light on the accumulation of noncoding DNA, which can have adaptive significance.

Prof. Jan Kozłowski has published numerous works presenting the results of both theoretical considerations and experimental research. The new intellectual trail he blazed has attracted evolutionary ecologists who have also begun to seek a better understanding of the role of optimal allocation of resources. Over the years these works have been written jointly with specialists from neighbouring fields, mathematicians, and PhD students. His 74 publications have been cited over 2,400 times. Kozłowski has founded his own school of evolutionary ecology, which is becoming well-known around the world.