Nathaniel Thoreau Wheelwright

Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Natural Sciences, Biology, Emeritus

Nathaniel T. Wheelwright is the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Natural Sciences in the Department of Biology at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. He earned his B.S. in Biology from Yale University (1975) and a Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of Washington (1982).

Following a Carr Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Florida (1982-1984) and a Visiting Assistant Professorship at Cornell University (1984-1986), he joined the faculty at Bowdoin College. As Director of the Bowdoin Scientific Station on Kent Island, New Brunswick (1987-2004), he established a long-term, on-going study of the population biology and behavioral ecology of Savannah sparrows and tree swallows and the pollination biology of island plants. His dissertation research on seed dispersal by fruit-eating birds in Costa Rica has led to long-term investigations of the reproductive ecology of tropical trees and the publication with Nalini Nadkarni of Monteverde: Ecology and Conservation of a Tropical Cloud Forest (Oxford University Press, 2000) and Monteverde: ecología y conservación de un bosque nuboso tropical  (Bowdoin Scholars' Bookshelf, Book 3, 2014).

With support from the Fulbright Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and Bowdoin College, he has taught and conducted research while living with his family in Spain, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Botswana, Ecuador, and New Zealand.

 

Education

  • Ph.D. in Zoology , University of Washington, 1982
  • B.S. in Biology, Yale University, 1975

Research


Since 1979 I have been studying interactions between fruit-eating birds and the tropical plants whose seeds they disperse in Monteverde, Costa Rica. That project has expanded to include investigations of sex expression, population genetic structure, phenology, photosynthesis, stable isotopes as markers of seasonal cycles, and lifetime reproduction in a group of tree species in the family Lauraceae. The work of more than 120 biologists working in Monteverde was synthesized in a book published in 2000 by Oxford University Press.

In 1986 I began a long-term study of Savannah Sparrows on Kent Island, New Brunswick, Canada, site of the Bowdoin Scientific Station. Our work on sparrows deals with the avoidance of inbreeding, the acquisition of song, incubation rhythms of experienced and inexperienced birds, post-fledging parental care, and mate choice. Most recently, with support from a National Science Foundation OPUS award, I have been collaborating with Erik Postma (Netherlands), Lukas Keller (Switzerland), and Céline Teplitsky (France) on quantitative genetics analyses of phenotypic variation in morphological, behavioral and life history traits across 12 generations. Other long-term research on Kent Island includes the reproductive ecology of insect-pollinated island plants, and the population biology of Tree Swallows.

Books

Wheelwright, N.T., and B. Heinrich. 2017. The Naturalist's Notebook: An Observation Guide and 5-Year Calendar-Journal for Tracking Changes in the Natural World Around You. Storey Publishing, North Adams, Mass.

Wheelwright, N.T., and N.M. Nadkarni (editors). 2014. Monteverde: ecología y conservación de un bosque nuboso tropical. Bowdoin Scholars' Bookshelf. Book 3. 862 pp. 
http://digitalcommons.bowdoin.edu/scholars-bookshelf/3

Nadkarni, N.M., and N.T. Wheelwright (editors). 2000. Monteverde: Ecology and Conservation of a Tropical Cloud Forest. Oxford University Press. 573pp. (also: Bowdoin Scholars' Bookshelf. Book 1.  http://digitalcommons.bowdoin.edu/scholars-bookshelf/1

Wheelwright, N.T., and B. Heinrich. 2017. The Naturalist's Notebook: An Observation Guide and 5-Year Calendar-Journal for Tracking Changes in the Natural World Around You. Storey Publishing, North Adams, Mass. Monteverde: ecología y conservación de un bosque nuboso tropical.   Monteverde: Ecology and Conservation of a Tropical Cloud Forest.

Former Students

Akane Uesugi Bryant Dossmann Corey Freeman Geoff Trussell '89 Josh Lawler Marci Brandenburg '99 Mike Butler Sarah Haggerty

News, Media, and Articles

Interviews

History of the Organization for Tropical Studies  (June 2013)

Music That Moves Me (MPBN)

Audio Slideshow

Good Gun Tales and the 73-Year History of the Bowdoin Scientific Station on Kent Island
Bass Lecture: Good Gun Tales and the 73-Year History of the Bowdoin Scientific Station on Kent Island

Popular Articles


NBC News: Scientist documents massive frog die-off (in his own pond)

Wheelwright, N.T. 2014. Plea from another symposium goerFrontiers in Ecology and the Environment 12: 98-99 

Putting Guantánamo to good use. Boston Globe (March 23, 2009).

First, there was an albatross. Bowdoin Magazine (April, 2008).

Bird by bird, avian populations are shrinking. Christian Science Monitor (August 24, 2007).

A lead slug, a moose, and Thoreau. Kennebec Journal (December 2, 2007).

Conserving Bird Biodiversity: General Principles and their Application. (book review) Conservation Biology (October 2003)

Enduring reasons to preserve threatened species. The Chronicle of Higher Education (June 1, 1994)

YouTube Videos

Watching an extinction with my kids

Awards