Daniel Simberloff

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Daniel Simberloff
Daniel Simberloff Porto 20091027.jpg
Daniel Simberloff in 2009.
Born (1942-04-07) 7 April 1942 (age 78)
Alma materHarvard University (A.B., 1964) (Ph.D., 1969)
Known forInvasion biology
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of Tennessee
University of South Florida
Doctoral advisorE. O. Wilson

Daniel Simberloff is a biologist and ecologist who earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1969.[1] He is currently Gore Hunger Professor of Environmental Science at the University of Tennessee [1] and Editor-in-chief of the journal Biological Invasions.[2]

Early life[edit]

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.[citation needed]


Simberloff received his A.B. from Harvard College in 1964, and later received his Ph.D. in Biology from Harvard University in 1969.[1] He wanted to go to grad school for mathematics, but changed his mind after taking a major biology course from future Nobel Prize winner, George Wald, as an undergrad.[3] This led to his introduction to E. O. Wilson. Simberloff became Wilson’s grad student, which began his career in ecology.


When Dan Simberloff came to ecology, it was in the throes of a revolution that sped its transition from what was mainly a point of view to the rigorous science it has become.[4] (A more complete discussion of this transition may be found under heading, "20th century transition to modern ecology," in the page on the history of ecology and other publications.)[5][6][7]. Simberloff's doctoral dissertation tested the theory of island biogeography proposed by MacArthur and Wilson,[8] resulting in a paper [9] that won the Mercer Award in 1971.[10] and was included as one of forty classic papers that represented the foundations of ecology.[11] As he read the literature in ecology, he began to be concerned that most mathematical models "more or less fit some data but had no reason to be the preferred explanation.[12] He showed that a random draw could explain some patterns having to do with island biota.[13] Meanwhile, a number of biologists, Jared Diamond the most eloquent of them, began calling for island biogeography theory to be applied in conservation.[14] This became a controversy in ecology known as SLOSS. In his 1976 Science paper, Simberloff contradicted his own theory, claiming that most of the insect turnover in the assemblages studied was ephemeral and did not, therefore, confirm island biogeography theory in general. In fact, two smaller areas could mathematically support more species than a single area of the same size, and he had experimental data from his some mangrove studies to support it.[15] A leading exponent of the theory now writes that “the species-area curve is a blunt tool in many contexts” and “now seems simplistic to the point of being cartoonish” when it comes to management of nature preserves.[16] There are more urgent concerns facing conservation biology than SLOSS.

Immediately on the heals of and related to the controversy of island biogeography theory, Simberloff took on the MacArthurian paradigm of competitively structured communities, championing the use of null models[17] in community ecology. Debate on the subject in the ecological literature became so heated that it inspired the name of "Tallassee mafia" for Simberloff and his associates at Florida State University.[18] Its high points were a set of papers in a philosophical journal,[19] an entire issue of The American Naturalist,[20] and a published symposium at Wakulla Springs, Florida,[21] that changed the face of the field. Simberloff 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.” The Ecological Society of America in conferring him its 2006 Eminent Ecologist Award for his "outstanding body of ecological work" and "contributions of extraordinary merit," citing him in particular for having been "the quintessential ecological iconoclast."[22]

Simberloff 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. He 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 several papers on invasive biology.

Personal Favorite Projects[edit]

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.


Selected publications[edit]

  • Simberloff, D. S., & Wilson, E. O. 1969. Experimental zoogeography of islands: the colonization of empty islands. Ecology, 50(2): 278-296. [1]
  • 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 JSTOR 420777
  • 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
  • Simberloff D. & Rejmánek M. (eds.) 2011. Encyclopedia of Biological Invasions. University of California Press, Berkeley & Los Angeles. [2]
  • Simberloff D. 2013. Biological invasions: Much progress plus several controversies. Contributions to Science 9: 7-16. [3]
  • 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.


  1. ^ a b c Homepage of Daniel Simberloff
  2. ^ Biological Invasions
  3. ^ Dritschilo, W. (2019). Earth Days Reprised Samizdat. Available from Amazon.com.
  4. ^ McIntosh, R. P. (1985). The Background of Ecology: Concept and Theory. Cambridge University Press.
  5. ^ Dritschilo, W. (2006). “Rachel Carson and Mid-Twentieth Century Ecology,” Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America 87:357-67
  6. ^ Dritschilo, W. (2008). Bringing Statistical Methods to Community and Evolutionary Ecology: Daniel S. Simberloff. Pages 356-371 in Harman, O. and M. R. Dietrich, (eds.). Rebels, Mavericks, and Heretics in Biology. Yale University Press, New Haven, Connecticut.
  7. ^ Dritschilo, W. (2019). Earth Days Reprised.
  8. ^ MacArthur, R.H., and E. O. Wilson. (1967). The Theory of Island Biogeography. Princeton University Press.
  9. ^ Simberloff, Daniel; Wilson, Edward O. (March 1969). "Experimental Zoogeography of islands - colonization of empty islands" (PDF). Ecology. Ecological Society of America. 50 (2): 278–296. doi:10.2307/1934856. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-12-15. Retrieved 2010-09-26.
  10. ^ https://esa.org/history/mercer-award/#tablepress-3_wrapper
  11. ^ Real, L. A., and J. H. Brown.(1991). Foundations of Ecology: Classic Papers with Commentaries. The University of Chicago Press.
  12. ^ Dritschilo, W. (2008). Bringing Statistical Methods to Community and Evolutionary Ecology: Daniel S. Simberloff. P. 360.
  13. ^ Simberloff, D. S., (1970). Taxonomic Diversity of Island Biota. Evolution 24:23-47.
  14. ^ Diamond, J. M. (1975). The Island Dilemma: Lessons of Island Biogeography for the Design of Nature Reserves. Biological Conservation. 7:129-146.
  15. ^ Simberloff, D. S., and L, G. Abele. (1976). Science 191:285-286.
  16. ^ Laurance, W. F. (2008). Theory Meets reality: How Habitat Fragmentation Research has Transcended Island Biogeographic Theory. Biological Conservation 141:1731-44.
  17. ^ Gotelli, N. J., and R. G. Graves. (1996). Null Models in Ecology. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D. C.
  18. ^ Lewin, R. (1983). Santa Rosalia Was a Goat. Science 221:636-9.
  19. ^ Multiple authors. (1980). Synthese 43:3-93.
  20. ^ A Round Table on Research in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. (1983). The American Naturalist 122:583-705.
  21. ^ Strong, D. R., Jr., Simberloff, D., Abele, L. G., and A. B Thistle. (1984). Editors, Ecological Communities: Conceptual Issues and the Evidence. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, .
  22. ^ https://www.esa.org/history/Awards/bulletin/eminent2006.pdf
  23. ^ https://esa.org/history/mercer-award/#tablepress-3_wrapper
  24. ^ https://www.esa.org/history/Awards/bulletin/eminent2006.pdf
  25. ^ Ramon Margalef Prize 2012

External links[edit]