19 November 2009


a quarter century ago, i was fortunate to be an undergrad student in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB) program and the University of Arizona in Tucson. i was well into my thirties, and had a clear sense of direction in my studies. with most of my general requirements having been satisfied previously at another school, my courses were predominantly math and science, in which i flourished. all those amazing labs, all those far-ranging field trips in southern arizona and northern sonora, studying everything from mammalogy, herpitology and ornithology to oceanography and biogeography. many of my classes were graduate-level, and i mingled freely with grad students as equals.

i've always been drawn to taking the longer view, seeing the bigger picture. EEB was ideal in that respect. ecology is the interdisciplinary study of the interactions between organisms, as well as the relationships between organisms and their environment. evolutionary biology is also interdisciplinary, and concerns itself with the origin of species, and how species change, multiply and diverge over time. coursework included microbiology, cell biology, genetics, paleontology, taxonomy and animal behavior.

both professors and guest lecturers were high calibre. one that stands out in my memory is dr. lynn margulis, one of the founders of the gaia hypothesis and of the endosymbiotic theory. another, my de facto mentor, was dr. paul s. martin, author of the theory that north america was populated by waves of immigrants from asia during the last ice age, and also the theory that these immigrants were responsible for the extinction through overhunting of native megafauna such as north american camels, mammoths, and great sloths, among others. and let us not forget dr. james brown (no, not the football star or the soul singer), now at the university of new mexico, whose original thinking on island biogeography did so much to promote that body of knowledge.

i was a lucky, lucky lad.

No comments:

Post a Comment