Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Natural Sciences
Chair of Biology Department
Druckenmiller Hall - 230D
Nathaniel Thoreau Wheelwright
Study of the behavior of animals and plants, and the interactions between organisms and their environment. Topics include population growth and structure, and the influence of competition, predation, and other factors on the behavior, abundance, and distribution of plants and animals. Laboratory sessions, field trips, and research projects emphasize concepts in ecology, evolution and behavior, research techniques, and the natural history of local plants and animals. Optional field trip to the Bowdoin Scientific Station on Kent Island.
Savannah Sparrow Ecology and Evolution
Tropical Ecology and Conservation
Temperate and Boreal Island Biology
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.
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.
History of the Organization for Tropical Studies (June 2013)
Wheelwright, N.T. 2014. Plea from another symposium goer. Frontiers 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)
Ecology, Introductory Biology, Investigations in Biology, Evolutionary Ecology, Concepts in Evolution and Ecology, Evolution, Conservation Biology, Introduction to Environmental Studies, Advanced Winter Field Ecology, Latin America: Environment and Society, Theory of Mate Selection in Birds, Bird Song, Human Song, Behavioral Ecology and Population Biology.
Field course on Seed Dispersal in Island Plants for Cuban professional biologists, sponsored by the Departamento de Flora y Fauna, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba (2008)
Module on Plant-Animal Interactions for Bolivian graduate students, sponsored by Estación Biológica Tunquini, Universidad Mayor de San Andrés, Bolivia (2000)
Organization for Tropical Studies, Costa Rica: Tropical Biology: An Ecological Approach (18 courses); Ecología de Poblaciones (2 courses); Undergraduate Semester Abroad Program (2 courses) (1979-2006)