Don Whitehead

Don Whitehead

Professor Emeritus, Biology

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  • Ph.D., Harvard University, 1958
  • A.M., Harvard University, 1955
  • A.B., magna cum laude, Harvard University, 1954


Don's initial research interests were in applying pollen analysis to understanding the biogeography and paleoclimatology of the unglaciated southeastern United States. In the late 1960s Don became interested in the rapid development of new theory in community, evolutionary, and ecosystem ecology, and he began to apply these new ideas in several contexts, specifically integrating paleoecological and paleolimnological studies to investigate long-term watershed lake interactions. Coincident with emerging national concerns about acid rain in 1980, Don showed that lake-water acidity had changed substantially during the last 12,000 years in repsonse to watershed events, and that diatoms were particularly sensitive to lake-water pH; this led to the formation of the multi-university Paleolimnological Investigations of Recent Lake Acidification (PIRLA) project with funding from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Electric Power Research Institute, which Don directed. In the late 1980s, Don's efforts shifted markedly, and he began to study the effects of forest fragmentation and forestry management on migratory songbird populations, building on a longtime interest in birding and participation in the Sassafras Audubon Society. (adapted from 1998 retirement tribute)