Jim Reichman

From an “Ecologist Directory” maintained by the ESA Education Office about 2004-2005. Profile circa 2004.

Degree                                  Ph.D.
Position                                Director
Organization                        National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis

jimreichmanDr. Reichman is the recipient of the Ecological Society of America’s 2004 Distinguished Service Citation for his many contributions to ESA and the field of ecology. He has served on a variety of committees and boards and is currently Chair of the Publications Committee and an Editor for Ecological Applications. Jim assumed the directorship of NCEAS shortly after it was established, and its present role and prominence reflect Jim’s efforts, imagination and leadership. Under Jim’s guidance, NCEAS has become one of the most valuable resources for the environmental science community, not only in the U.S. but also internationally.

From as early as I can remember my family enjoyed the outdoors and we camped all over North America. I joined the Boy Scouts as soon as I could and became involved in a very active group that went camping one weekend a month and made several long trips each year. This led me to major in biology as an undergraduate although I received a B.A. degree, minoring in history, so I wouldn’t have to take organic chemistry. Just before the Christmas break of my senior year I happened to be talking to a new faculty member at Texas Tech University (Robert Baker) who asked what I was going to do when I graduated. I planned to move to Miami and be an airplane mechanic – Bob suggested I try graduate school and I completed an M.S. with him after two years of extensive field work.

I wasn’t completely sure why I went to graduate school, but during my first year I read Ernst Mayr’s Animal Species and Evolution, and was hooked. I completed a Ph.D. in 1974 at Northern Arizona University (with Terry Vaughan) and was trained as a traditional field biologist (“let’s go see what the animals are doing”). The next ten months, spent as a postdoctoral associate with Jim Brown, changed my life. He and members of his lab (especially Tom Whitham and Diana Davidson) imbued me with the notion of viewing ecology and evolution conceptually and suddenly what had always been fun took on a satisfying intellectual quality. While I still enjoy natural history, it is the ideas and concepts that are the most exciting. I have conducted research programs in several areas (competition between desert granivores, long term food storage strategies, burrow geometry of underground herbivores and the impact of these rodents on plant communities), and have worked on a variety of eclectic topics (evolution of regeneration capabilities, trails of mammals of different sizes on slopes of different angles).

After the postdoctoral appointment I became a research ecologist at the Museum of Northern Arizona and, in 1981, a professor at Kansas State University. During the stint at KSU I spent 18 months as the Ecology Program Officer at the National Science Foundation. This stimulated an interest in research administration which led me through positions as an Associate Vice Provost for Research and Director of Konza Prairie Research Natural Area at KSU, 19 months as Assistant Director for Research of the National Biological Service (where I worked with Ron Pulliam), and to my current position as Director of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, which is the perfect job. I find facilitating the research of bright, motivated scientists very gratifying.

I advise young scientists to become intellectually engaged in science – understand the basic concepts, and use them to characterize the system of interest and to develop new theories, hypotheses, and questions. I also suggest dabbling intellectually in many areas – develop a general interest for the way the natural world works. Understanding the natural world in this way will allow you to communicate your wonder and enthusiasm to all interested parties, from parents and relatives, to students and the general public.

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