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Aaron Ellison

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Aaron Ellison retired in July 2021 after 20 years as the Senior Research Fellow in Ecology at Harvard University. From 2018 - 2021, he also served as the Deputy Director of the Harvard Forest. Aaron received his B.A. in East Asian Philosophy from Yale University in 1982 and his Ph.D. in Evolutionary Ecology from Brown University in 1986. After post-doctoral positions at Cornell and with the Organization for Tropical Studies in Costa Rica, Aaron taught for a year at Swarthmore College before moving to Mount Holyoke College in 1990. There, he was the Marjorie Fisher Assistant, Associate, and Full Professor of Environmental Studies, founding director of Mount Holyoke’s Center for Environmental Literacy (now the Miller Worley Center for the Environment), and then Associate Dean for Science, and he taught biology, environmental studies, and statistics until 2001. In 1992, Aaron received the National Science Foundation's Presidential Faculty Fellow award for "demonstrated excellence and continued promise both in scientific and engineering research and in teaching future generations of students to extend and apply human knowledge." Following a sabbatical year at Harvard in 2001-2002, Aaron spent 20 years at the Harvard Forest – Harvard’s 1500-hectare outdoor classroom and laboratory for ecological research. While continuing to work with undergraduate researchers as the director of the Harvard Forest Summer Research Program in Ecology (2004-2019), Aaron introduced the concept of foundation species to terrestrial ecology and investigated their role in diversity and ecosystem function in forests throughout the world. Throughout his academic career, he studied food-web dynamics and community ecology of wetlands and forests; the evolutionary ecology of carnivorous plants; the responses of plants and ants to global climate change; application of Bayesian statistical inference to ecological research and environmental decision-making; and the critical reaction of Ecology to Modernism. He has authored or co-authored over 250 scientific papers, dozens of book reviews and software reviews, and the books A Primer of Ecological Statistics (2004; 2nd edition 2012), A Field Guide to the Ants of New England (2012), Stepping in the Same River Twice: Replication in Biological Research (2017), Vanishing Point (2017), Carnivorous Plants: Physiology, Ecology, and Evolution (2018), and Scaling in Ecology with a Model System (2021). Aaron was the Editor-in-Chief of Ecological Monographs (2009-2015); a Senior Editor of Methods in Ecology and Evolution (2018-2021); and is currently the Executive Editor of Methods in Ecology and Evolution (2021-). In 2012 he was elected a Fellow of the Ecological Society of America, and in 2016 he was certified as a Senior Ecologist by the Ecological Society of America (certification renewed in 2021). In 2021, Aaron received a Humboldt Prize from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, which he will enable him to engage in research at the University of Freiburg.

Following his retirement from Harvard, Aaron has continued his research in three areas: the intellectual history of ecology and its relationship to Romanticism and Modernism in the late 19th- and early 20th centuries (the focus of his 2022 Natural Sciences Fellowship at the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study in Uppsala); qualitative and quantitative differences between diversity and heterogeneity in food webs and human social networks (in collaboration with Ayelet Shavit [Tel Hai College, Israel], Zhanshan Ma [Kunming Institute of Zoology, China] and Wesley Dáttilo [Instituto de Ecología, Veracruz, Mexico], with additional support from the Global Fellowship program at the University of St Andrews); and effects of historical and ongoing climatic change on plant phenology across North America (supported by an NSF Macrosystems award in collaboration with Susan Mazer [UC Santa Barbara], Charles Davis [Harvard], and Sydne Record [Bryn Mawr]). Aaron also maintains an art studio dedicated to poetry, photography, and woodworking within the Artisan's Asylum in Allston/Brighton (Massachusetts) and is involved in active artistic collaborations with Eric Zeigler (University of Toledo, Ohio) and David Buckley Borden (University of Oregon). With Manisha Patel, Aaron founded Sound Solutions for Sustainable Science LLC, a consulting firm focused on supporting learners from all backgrounds and walks of life in scientific research and education. When not travelling, he lives in Boston, Massachusetts. 

Follow Aaron on Twitter, keep up with him on his occasional blog, check him out on Wikipedia, and learn about his books on his Amazon author's page.