Dr. Gordon H. Orians

Professor Emeritus of Biology

Born July 10, 1932, I received a BS in Zoology from the University of Wisconsin, Madison in June 1954, and a PhD in Zoology from the University of California, Berkeley, in August 1960. Assistant, Associate and Full Professor of Zoology, University of Washington, 1960-1995. Director, Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Washington, 1976-1986. I was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, 1989 and to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1990.

My research interests have ranged over a variety of topics, which are summarized below. A few key publications are cited.

Behavioral Ecology

This has been the most intensive research area. My efforts have been directed primarily toward problems of habitat selection, mate selection and mating systems, selection of prey and foraging patches (foraging theory), and the relationships between ecology and social organization. The primary subjects of my studies have been blackbirds of the Family Icteridae, a group of birds noted for the diversity of their social systems. My publications include theoretical papers as well as tests of theories carried out by means of experimental manipulations and comparative analyses of interspecific patterns.

1980. Some Adaptations of marsh-nesting Blackbirds. Princeton U. Press.
1996. Red-winged Blackbirds: Decision-making and Reproductive Success. U. of Chicago Press (with L. Beletsky)

Population Dynamics

This research has been oriented toward exploring the dynamical consequences of rules developed in the field of behavioral ecology, particularly those relating to foraging behavior and habitat selection

1969. Overlap in foods and foraging among four species of blackbirds in the Potholes of central Washington. Ecology 50:930-938 (with H. Horn)
1989. Red-winged Blackbird. In: I. Newton (Ed) Lifetime Reproduction in Birds, pp. 183-197. (With L. Beletsky)

Plant-Herbivore Interactions

Ecologists have long recognized that herbivores consume very small amounts of the biomass of green plants annually in most environments. Many different ideas have been proposed to explain this pattern, among which is the possible role of chemical defenses of plants against grazing. My laboratory was involved with research on this topic for more than a decade.

1986. Seed dispersal by animals: contrasts with pollen dispersal, problems with terminology, and constraints on coevolution. American Naturalist 119:402-413 (with N. Wheelwright)

Community and Ecosystem Ecology

The powerful recent developments in behavioral ecology have many implications for concepts at other levels of ecology, particularly the structure of communities. This topic has been increasingly occupying my attention and is one in which I expect to carry out a great deal of future research.

2000. Biodiversity and ecosystem processes in tropical ecosystems. Revista de Biología Tropical 48:297-303.
2000. Behavior and Community Structure. Etología 8:43-51
2007. Ecology of Australia: the effects of nutrient-poor soils and intense fires. Biological Reviews 82:393-423. (with A. V. Milewski)

Human Ecology

This research has its roots in my general concern with issues of environmental quality and in my work on habitat selection among birds. I was stimulated to explore the use of the approach to the study of habitat I had developed with birds on aspects of human behavior. This research has led me into cooperation with psychologists, geographers, planners, and landscape painters.

1980. Habitat selection: general theory and applications to human behavior. In: J. S. Lockard (ed). Evolution of Human Social Behavior, pp. 49-77. Elsevier.
1998. Human behavioral ecology: 140 years without Darwin is too long. Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America 79:15-28.
2008. Human nature & nature. Daedalus, Spring 2008, pp 39-48.

Plant Ecology

My research in this field has focused on convergent evolution between Arizona and Argentina, on models of the adaptations of plant form to arid climates, and on gap dynamics in tropical forests.

1977. Solbrig, O. T. and G. H. Orians. The adaptive characteristics of desert plants. American Scientist 65:412-421.
1981. The influence of tree-falls in tropical forests on tree species richness. Tropical Ecology 23:255-279.
1988. Internal heterogeneity of gaps and species richness in Costa Rican tropical wet forest. J. Tropical Ecology 4:95-115. (with A. Brandani and G. Hartshorn)

For a full list of my publications please see my full CV.

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