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Simberloff was born in 1942 in Wilson Borough, Pennsylvania, a small town near the Delaware River. As a young child, he collected insects, especially beetles, pinning and preserving them in cigar boxes as early as four years old. In addition to his collection of insects, Simberloff also caught and kept salamanders and musk turtles in a basin in his home. He cites being influenced by his uncle, who was a chemist. Consequently, he received science books and was taken to science lectures throughout his youth. He moved to New York City at age 11. Simberloff recalls really enjoying all school subjects, math in particular, despite the substandard teaching of the large underfunded city schools. He excelled in everything academic.
Simberloff received his A.B. from Harvard College in 1964, and later received his Ph.D. in Biology from Harvard University in 1968. He wanted to go to grad school for mathematics, but changed his mind after taking a major biology course as an undergrad. This led to his introduction to Edward O. Wilson. Simberloff became Wilson’s grad student, which began his career in ecology.
Simberloff studied and collaborated with E. O. Wilson with many textbooks and experimental studies to assess the theory of island biogeography. This won them the Mercer Award in 1971. He was questioned after his 1976 Science paper, where he contradicted his own theory. He claimed that most of the insect turnover in this assemblage was ephemeral and did not, therefore, confirm the theory. This was interesting in the sense that he was confident enough to question his own theory even after it was widely accepted. Society embraced his island biogeography, and it was used in designing nature reserves. Simberloff questioned the reserves, claiming large reserves aren’t always the best choice and in some cases small reserves might be better. In the early 80’s, Simberloff took on the MacArthurian paradigm of competitively structured communities. He championed the use of null models in community ecology. This changed the face of the field. He caused ecologists to question, “what would happen if one mechanism were removed?” He preached, “rely on the data to tell you how nature operates; don’t simply find the patterns that you’re supposed to find.” He was instrumental in making the presidential Executive order 13112 on invasive species, and he also serves on the IUCN Invasive Species Specialist Group and the IUCN Species Survival Commission.
Simberloff has served on the Board of Governors of the Nature Conservancy, the federal Invasive Species Advisory Committee, and the editorial boards of Biodiversity and Conservation, Oecologia, Biological Invasions, BioScience and Ecology. Simberloff was a faculty member at Florida State University from 1968-1997 before relocating to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He is currently a distinguished professor there in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. He directs the University of Tennessee’s Institute for Biological Invasions. His more recent work focuses on the presence of invasive species, and raises the “specter of ‘invasional meltdown’”. At present, Simberloff has a long-term project in Patagonia on the invasion of conifer trees, involving introduced deer, boar, and fungi. Simberloff has a total of over 350 publications, and he is currently working on a book and several papers on invasive biology.
Personal Favorite Projects
The series of projects on insect communities on small mangrove islands, which started with his doctoral dissertation, was Simberloff's earliest major contribution to the field of ecology. Simberloff is also recognized for a long series of papers on different statistical analyses of patterns and what they can tell us about underlying ecological mechanisms, especially which species are where, and the different sizes of coexisting species. This includes the work with Tamar Dayan on character displacement and on assembly rules and species combinations with Ed Connor and Michael Collins. This research caused a major shift in how researchers analyze pattern data. Simberloff is currently engaged in a set of ongoing research projects in Patagonia on conifer invasions.
- 1971 Mercer Award, Ecological Society of America.
- 2006: Eminent Ecologist Award, Ecological Society of America.
- 2012: Ramon Margalef Prize in Ecology
- Connor E.F. & Simberloff D. 1979. You can't falsify ecological hypotheses without data. Bull. Ecol. Soc. Amer. 60: 154-155.
- Lockwood J.L., Simberloff D., McKinney M.L. & von Holle B. 2001. How many, and which, plants will invade natural areas? Biol. Invasions 3: 1-8.
- Mack R.N., Simberloff D., Lonsdale W.M., Evans H., Clout M. & Bazzaz F.A. 2000. Biotic invasions: causes, epidemiology, global consequences, and control. Ecol. Appl. 10: 689-710.
- Myers J.H., Simberloff D., Kuris A.M. & Carey J.R. 2000. Eradication revisited: dealing with exotic species. Trends Ecol. Evol. 15: 316-320.
- Myers J., Simberloff D., Kuris A. & Carey J. 2000. Eradication of exotic species - Reply. Trends Ecol. Evol. 15: 515-516.
- Parker I.M., Simberloff D., Lonsdale W.M., Goodell K., Wonham M., Kareiva P., Williamson M.H., von Holle B., Moyle P.B., Byers J.E. & Goldwasser L. 1999. Impact: toward a framework for understanding the ecological effects of invaders. Biol. Invasions 1: 3-19.
- Rejmánek M., Richardson D.M., Barbour M.G., Crawley M.J., Hrusa G.F., Moyle P.B., Randall J.M., Simberloff D. & Williamson M. 2002. Biological invasions: politics and the discontinuity of ecological terminology. Bull. Ecol. Soc. Amer. 83: 131-133.
- Rhymer J.M. & Simberloff D. 1996. Extinction by hybridization and introgression. Annu. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 27: 83-109.
- Ricciardi A., Steiner W.W.M., Mack R.N. & Simberloff D. 2000. Toward a global information system for invasive species. BioScience 50: 239-244.
- Roll U., Dayan T., Simberloff D. & Goren M. 2007. Characteristics of the introduced fish fauna of Israel. Biol. Invasions 9: 813-824.
- Simberloff D. 1996. Impacts of introduced species in the United States. Consequences 2.
- Simberloff D. 2000. Global climate change and introduced species in United States forests. The Science of the Total Environment 262: 253-261.
- Simberloff D. 2000. Foreword. p. vii-xiv in Elton C.S.(ed.) The ecology of invasions by animals and plants. University of Chicago Press, Chicago,
- Simberloff D. 2001. Inadequate solutions for a global problem? Trends Ecol. Evol. 16: 323-324.
- Simberloff D. 2001. Eradication of island invasives: practical actions and results achieved. Trends Ecol. Evol. 16: 273-274.
- Simberloff D. 2002. Managing existing populations of alien species. In: Alien Invaders in Canada’s Waters, Wetlands, and Forests (eds. R. Claudi, P. Nantel & E. Muckle-Jeffs). Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service, Ottawa
- Simberloff D. 2003. How much information on population biology is needed to manage introduced species? Conservation Biology 17, 83-92
- Simberloff D. 2004. Community ecology: is it time to move on? The American Naturalist 163: 787-799.
- Simberloff D. 2004. A rising tide of species and literature: a review of some recent books on biological invasions. BioScience 54: 247-254.
- Simberloff D. 2005. The politics of assessing risk for biological invasions: the USA as a case study. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 20: 216-222.
- Simberloff D. 2006. Invasional meltdown six years later: important phenomenon, unfortunate metaphor, or both? Ecol. Letters 9: 912-919.
- Simberloff D., Parker I. M. & Windle P. N. (2005) Introduced species policy, management, and future research needs. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 3, 12-20
- Simberloff D. & Rejmánek M. (eds.) Encyclopedia of Biological Invasions. University of California Press, Berkeley & Los Angeles.
- Simberloff, Daniel, Don C. Schmitz, and Tom C. Brown, eds. Strangers in Paradise: Impact and Management of Nonindigenous Species in Florida. Washington DC, Island Press, 1997.
- Simberloff D. & Stiling P. 1996. How risky is biological control? Ecology 77: 1965-1974.
- Simberloff D. & Stiling P. 1998. How risky is biological control? Reply. Ecology 79: 1834-1836.
- Simberloff D. & Von Holle B. 1999. Positive interactions of nonindigenous species: Invasional meltdown? Biological Invasions 1, 21-32
- Thébaud C. & Simberloff D. 2001. Are plants really larger in their introduced ranges? The American Naturalist 157: 231-236.
- Vitule J.R.S., Freire C.A. & Simberloff D. 2009. Introduction of non-native freshwater fish can certainly be bad. Fish. Fisheries 10: 98-108.