Sam McNaughton

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

Degree                                             Ph.D. 1964 (University of Texas)
Position                                           Professor of Science
Department                                     Science (William Rand Kenan Jr.)
Organization                                   Syracuse University

mcNaughtonDr. McNaughton is the recipient of ESA’s 2004 Eminent Ecologist Award. This award is given to a senior ecologist in recognition of an outstanding body of ecological work or of sustained ecological contributions of extraordinary merit. Nominees may be from any country and need not be ESA members. Recipients receive lifetime, active membership in the Society.

When did you become interested in ecology?  How did you learn about ecological careers?
As a kid I always fished, trapped, and hunted, where I observed nature on a continuing basis, even if I was just roaming around and seeing what was there without any specific objective. When I was in college at NW Missouri State, Dr. Irene Mueller offered an ecology course which I took and it taught me the meaning of what I was seeing. In addition, she required that we read scientific papers and give oral reports on them to the class. Well, that was it! I had to be an ecologist!

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?
I received my Ph.D. from the University of Texas, Austin in 1964. For the next year, I had a job as an assistant professor at Portland State College after which I did postdoctoral work at Stanford University. I have been at Syracuse University since 1966, where I am currently the William Rand Kenan Jr. Professor of Science. My research includes ecosystem and plant ecology, grassland ecosystems, ecology of large mammalian herbivores, and conservation biology. We are particularly interested in ecosystems where large mammals are significant members of the food web, and how those mammals interact with energy flow and nutrient cycling. The focus of field studies is Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, east Africa, a grazing ecosystem with Earth’s largest concentration of such mammals. Previous localities of research have included Yellowstone National Park in the USA, the Galapagos Islands – where the grazing giant tortoises were studied, and southern Kenya.

What key advice would you offer a student today?
Do science that interests you, but don’t beat your head against unsolvable problems

What advice do you have for communicating ecology to diverse audiences?
If you can’t explain it to your parents and a general audience, you don’t know what you’re talking about.

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