Professor of Ecology
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
For nearly two decades, Douglas Levey has examined relationships between frugivorous (fruit-eating) birds and fruiting plants. More specifically, he has explored why some fruits are poisonous to non-seed-dispersing frugivores, and studied the importance of fruit in maintaining wild vertebrate populations. Pharmaceutical companies looking for the next “silver bullet” drug – something that kills microbes but leaves vertebrates unscathed – may soon be considering Levey’s research. The poisonous fruit compounds to non-dispersing birds shut down microbial decay completely.
Recently, Levey has begun to research the roles of birds that place seeds in patches of forest and other habitats. In December 1999 the U.S. Forest Service finished construction of special habitat patches to use for Levey’s work in determining how important birds are in placing seeds into fragmented patches of habitat. Just under way, this study will address two central problems of prior testing: understanding what causes birds to disperse seeds in certain areas while seemingly ignoring others, and experimenting on a scale large enough to develop clear applications for habitat conservation and management.
Since 1995, Levey has written 18 articles, nine of them published by such prestigious ecology journals as Ecology and the American Naturalist. Levey has accrued more than $1 million in research funding and has helped graduate students who have come to study with him obtain additional grants to support their own research.
Both graduate and undergraduate students enjoy and benefit from working with Levey. Recently, he has taken over the Graduate Orientation Seminar for new students. He also works closely with undergraduate students, many of whom go on to attend graduate school.
Additionally, Levey gives numerous seminars and lectures, and is a regular participant in the American Ornithologists’ Union. Presently, he is organizing an International Symposium on Frugivory and Seed Dispersal to be held in Brazil in the summer of 2001.