Gene Likens

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

Degree                                      Ph.D. 1962 (University of Wisconsin, Madison)
Position                                    President and Director
Organization                            Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Millbrook NY


When did you get interested in ecology?  Who was most influential in guiding you into ecology?

I grew up on a small farm in northern Indiana. While growing up I enjoyed ‘poking around’ in nearby lakes , forests and woodlots. That is really where my interest in ecology began. Dr. Emerson Niswander, a professor at my undergraduate school, Manchester College in North Manchester, Indiana, was critically influential in my pursuit of a graduate degree. But it was Dr. Arthur D. Hasler at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who sparked and focused my interest in limnology and aquatic ecology.

Describe your route to a career in (or using) ecology. What challenges did you need to overcome? What was your training, and what positions have you held?

Having decided rather late in my undergraduate career to go on for an advanced degree, I had much course work to make up. My undergraduate experience, however, provided a very firm base for how to think and approach problems critically. My Ph.D. was in zoology with a minor in botany, and I have held faculty positions since 1961 at Dartmouth College, Cornell University, Rutgers University and Yale University. A fuller description can be found at

How did you learn about ecological careers?  What is your position title now?

I am the president and director of the Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, New York, and I hold faculty appointments at Cornell, Rutgers and Yale Universities. At the time I was thinking about a career in science, most of the information I received was by word of mouth from professors at my undergraduate institution.

What key advice would you offer a student today?

If you are interested in science, “go for it!” It can be an extremely rewarding and fun career. Always keep your eyes, ears and mind open to new opportunities.



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