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Nathaniel Wheelwright to Discuss Kent Island History, Research Feb. 13

Story posted February 04, 2008

Nat Wheelwright.

Nathaniel T. Wheelwright, recently appointed Bowdoin's Anne T. and Robert Bass Professor of Natural Sciences, will give a talk titled "Good Gun Tales and the 73-Year History of the Bowdoin Scientific Station on Kent Island" at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, February 13, 2008, in Kresge Auditorium, Visual Arts Center. The lecture commemorates his appointment to the Bass Professorship.

Wheelwright will recount how the shooting of a rare albatross in 1913 by a Canadian fisherman set in motion an improbable series of events that led to the establishment in 1934 of one of North America's oldest and best-known biological field stations.

The talk will also describe some of the research currently being conducted on Kent Island by undergraduates and visiting scientists.

Wheelwright, who joined the Bowdoin faculty in 1986, served as director of the Bowdoin Scientific Station on Kent Island, New Brunswick, Canada, from 1987 to 2004.

In 1986 he began a long-term study of Savannah Sparrows on Kent Island. Each summer, he joins eight undergraduates, several graduate students and other researchers on the archipelago in the Bay of Fundy. Their work on sparrows deals with the avoidance of inbreeding, the acquisition and heritability of song, incubation rhythms of experienced and inexperienced birds, post-fledging parental care, and mate choice. Other long-term research on Kent Island includes the reproductive ecology of insect-pollinated island plants, and the population biology of Tree Swallows.

Since 1986, 33 undergraduates who spent the summer on Kent Island have co-authored publications in collaboration with Professor Wheelwright, and 42 have gone on for their Ph.D.s in ecology or related fields.

Kent Island.

At Bowdoin, Wheelwright has taught 13 different courses, including Behavioral Ecology and Population Biology, Ornithology, Introductory Biology, Introduction to Environmental Studies, Advanced Winter Field Ecology, and Environment and Society in Latin America.

His research interests include the behavioral ecology and population biology of birds, coevolution between plants and animals, island ecology, tropical ecology, and plant reproductive ecology, with an emphasis on long-term field studies.

Wheelwright earned a B.S. in biology at Yale University and a Ph.D. in zoology at the University of Washington before being named the Carr Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Florida. He spent several years as a visiting assistant professor at Cornell University before coming to Bowdoin. Since 1990, he has also been an faculty associate in the Department of Wildlife at the University of Maine.

He is the recipient of two Fulbright Fellowships, five grants from the National Science Foundation, and various other grants and awards.

He has also been a faculty member on more than 20 graduate courses in tropical ecology in Costa Rica through the Organization for Tropical Studies and in Bolivia through the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés. He has given invited seminars at more than 40 universities and field stations in a dozen countries.

He has published a book with Oxford University Press and more than 60 scholarly papers in peer-reviewed journals, as well as popular essays in newspapers and journals such as The Chronicle of Higher Education and Christian Science Monitor.

Wheelwright's lecture is open to the public and admission is free. For more information call 725-3257.

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