Faculty Profile: Douglass Morse, PHD

Douglass Morse
Douglass Morse, PHD
Hermon Carey Bumpus Professor Emeritus of Biology and Professor of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Work: +1 401-863-3152
My current research focuses on two areas: 1) interactions among the members of a four-trophic-level system involving ferns, caterpillars, primary parasitic wasps and hyperparasitoid wasps (those that parasitize the primary parasitoids!) and 2) the relationship among foraging theory, sexual selection and lifetime fitness. In the latter work I focus on the crab spider Misumena vatia, a sit-and-wait predator that hunts on flowers, but have also worked with birds, bumblebees, and other insects in the past.


I am a behavioral ecologist and study host-parasitoid interactions, foraging behavior and how it relates to life history strategies that affect lifetime fitness, mechanisms of mate choice, and cognitive aspects of innate and learned traits. I review much of this work in three books that span large parts of my research career. I commenced my career at the University of Maryland and came to Brown in 1979 as the Hermon Carey Bumpus Professor of Biology, officially retiring in 2005, but remaining active in my research field, mentoring undergraduate research and offering a reduced number of courses. I chaired the current Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology for most of my tenure at Brown.


Louisiana State University

Research Description

We study a four-trophic-level system involving a crambid moth whose larvae feed on ferns. They exploit two abundant species, sensitive and marsh ferns, and others where available, from at least four families, demonstrating an ability to process a wide range of defensive chemicals. Densities of larvae reach extremely high levels in prime habitat, usually in low-lying areas of old fields. Our main population contains several thousand individuals. The larvae are heavily parasitized by a braconid wasp, which in turn is hyperparasitized by chalcidoid and ichneumonid wasps. This system provides excellent opportuinities for studies of both bottom-up and top-down forces acting among those different trophic levels, including the fourth one.
What effect does the first trophic level, as channeled through the second and third levels, have upon the fourth level? Chemical differences between food plants may affect their quality to herbivores, but what effect may this result play in the success of parasitoids, and on the success of their own parasitoids, the hyperparasitoids? These questions have considerable importance for the success of biological control, yet the parasitoid-hyperparasitoid relationship, a potentially key aspect of parasitoid success, receives considerably less attention than might be expected. Our system permits realistic field experimentation of these links.

We also continue to study the relationship between resource exploitation and lifetime fitness, concentrating on the crab spider Misumena vatia, a sit-and-wait predator that hunts on flowers. The critical activity of adult females is to find food and that of the adult males is to find females. Since the two activities require considerable time and search, they may best be treated as examples of foraging. We have evaluated the consequences of foraging success on key life history variables throughout Misumenaââ'¬â"¢s life cycle. To understand how its attributes and limitations affect it in this quest, we have concentrated on the role of cognitive factors in determining success in foraging at different stages of the life cycle. As one of the most dimorphic of free-living land animals, these studies simultaneously provide insight into the forces driving sexual dimorphism and the degree to which they result from mutualistic and antagonistic selective pressures on the two sexes.

Grants and Awards

1979-2005 Hermon Carey Bumpus Professor of Biology, Brown University
2005- Hermon Carey Bumpus Professor of Biology Emeritus, Brown
1972-73 Senior Visiting Researcher, Edward Grey Institute,
University of Oxford, England
1981-82 Visiting Professor, Department of Animal Ecology,
University of Uppsala, Sweden
1988-89 Visiting Scientist, Imperial College,
University of London, England
1995 Visiting Professor, Department of Animal Ecology, University of
Uppsala, Sweden
1996 Erskine Fellow, Department of Zoology, University of Canterbury,
Christchurch, New Zealand
2002-03 Visiting Fellow, Department of Zoology, University of Melbourne,
Melbourne, Australia


Memberships in Scientific Societies:

American Association for the Advancement of Science (fellow)
Sigma Xi
Ecological Society of America
British Ecological Society
Animal Behavior Society
American Ornithologists' Union (fellow)
Cooper Ornithological Society
Wilson Ornithological Society
American Arachnological Society
Botanical Society of America
American Society of Naturalists (elected member)
International Society for Behavioral Ecology
Association of Field Ornithologists
Rhode Island Natural History Survey

Editorial Service:

Editor, Ecology, 1983-1987
Editorial Board, Northeastern Naturalist, 2002-2008
Editorial Board, Journal of Insect Biology, 2005-2008
Managing Editor, Journal of Arachnology, 2009-2014

Publication Referee:

Animal Behaviour
Ecological Monographs
Canadian Entomologist
Journal of Field Ornithology
American Midland Naturalist
Journal of Mammalogy
American Naturalist
Ecological Entomology
Ornithological Monographs
Systematic Zoology
Wilson Bulletin
Ornis Scandinavica
Florida Field Naturalist
Canadian Journal of Zoology
Holarctic Ecology/ Ecography
Environmental Entomology
American Scientist
Journal of Arachnology
Publications of the Nuttall Ornithological Club
Zeitschrift fur Tierpsychologie/ Ethology
Botanical Gazette
American Journal of Botany
Conservation Biology
Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Ontario
Annales Zoologici Fennici
Behavioral Ecology
Ethology, Ecology, Evolution
International Council for Bird Preservation, Technical Publication Series
Birds of North America
Revue Suisse de Zoologie
Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club
Functional Ecology
Journal of Experimental Zoology
Rhode Island Natural History Survey
Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B
Journal of Insect Behavior
Journal of Animal Ecology
Northeastern Naturalist
Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Journal of Experimental Biology
CSIRO Wildlife Research
Animal Cognition
Cahiers de Biologie Marine
New Zealand Journal of Zoology
Austral Ecology
Ornitologia Colombiana
Biological Journal of the Linnean Society
Journal of Ethology
Journal of Orthopteran Research
Basic and Applied Ecology
Biodiversity and Conservation
Journal of Insect Science
Evolutionary Ecology
Population Ecology
Journal of Economic Entomology
Revista Iberica de Aracnologia
Acta Zoologica Mexicana
Insect Science
Ecology Letters
Acta Ethologica
Journal of Natural History
Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata
Studies in Neotropical Fauna and Environment

Grant Review Boards:

1982-1988 Sigma Xi--Scientific Research Society of North America
1986 NSF--EPSCoR panel, facilitator
1991 NSF--Population Biology and Physiological Ecology (declined)
1993-1994 NSF--Population Biology
2000 NSF--Biocomplexity

Proposal Reviewer:

NSF--general ecology, psychobiology, population biology, systematic biology, animal behavior
ERDA--biological sciences
National Geographic Society
Xerces Society
NSERC (Canada)
Center for Field Research
Austrian Science Fund (FWF)
Marston Fund, Cook Fellowships (Royal Society of New Zealand)


American Ornithologists' Union: Committee on Biography, 1971-1972; Membership Committee, 1974-1977; Committee on Centennial History, 1977-1978; Wilson Ornithological Society: Student Membership Committee, 1975-1977

Visiting Committee:
Lehigh University, 1981-1988
Clark University, 1990
University of Tennessee 1998
Vanderbilt University 1998

Outside Examiner:
Dartmouth College, 1975
Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1979
University of British Columbia, 1982
University of Toronto, 1983, 1985
Yale University, 1984
Rutgers University, 1992, 1996
University of Canterbury, New Zealand, 1996
University of Melbourne, Australia, 2001
MacQuarie University, Australia, 2011
Consultant: Uppsala University (Sweden), 1987-1988

Board of Directors: Audubon Society of Rhode Island, 1990-1994
Advisory Board: Rhode Island Natural History Survey, 1993-1997

Tenure and Promotion Reviews:

1975 University of California, Berkeley; Dartmouth College
1982 Georgetown University; University of Maryland, Baltimore County; Ohio State University
1983 University of California, Irvine; University of Maryland, College Park
1984 Yale University; Harvard University; Oregon State University; State University of New York at Stony Brook
1985 University of Delaware; Purdue University
1986 University of Manitoba; University of Missouri-St. Louis; College of the Holy Cross; University of Maryland, Frostburg
1987 University of Chicago; Arizona State University; Smithsonian Institution
1988 University of Missouri
1989 University of California, Riverside; Utah State University
1990 State University of New York at Stony Brook
1991 University of Maryland, Frostburg; Georgetown University
1994 University of Rhode Island
1995 Miami University, University of Western Ontario, Colorado State University
1996 Pomona College, Clark University, Wheaton College
1997 University of Florida
1998 Tulane University, University of Mississippi
1999 University of Canterbury (NZ)
2001 Miami University
2003 Macquarie University (Australia)
2004 University of Massachusetts, Amherst
2005 National University of Singapore, University of Melbourne
2006 Tufts University
2009 Ohio State University

Symposia and Meetings Coordinated:

1983 Population Biologists of New England, Coordinator
1984 Second International Foraging Conference, Coordinator
1996 Ecological Society of America, local co-chair

Service (Brown University)

1979-1980 Search Committee for Invertebrate Zoologist
1979-1980 Search Committee for Theoretical Ecologist (Chairman)
1980-1981 Curriculum Committee
1980-1981 Library Committee
1980-1981 Search Committee for Plant Ecologist (Chairman)
1981-2002 Executive/Advisory Committee, Program in Biology, Division of Biology
and Medicine
1981-1987 Director Graduate Program in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
1982-1983 Acting Chairman, Section of Population Biology and Genetics
1982-2005 Undergraduate Advisor
1982-1983 Search Committee for Comparative Anatomist
1983-1984 Academic Advisory Committee on Anatomy
1983-1984 Promotions Committee, Chairman - Program in Biology
1984-1992 Ad-hoc Committee on Endowed Chairs, Brown University
1984-1985 Ad-hoc Committee on Selection of Dean of Biology, Chairman
1984-1985 Chairman, Section of Population Biology and Genetics
1985-1993 Chairman, Section of Population Biology, Morphology and Genetics
1985-1986 Search Committee for Population Geneticist (Chairman)
1986-1987 Search Committee for Population Ecologist (Chairman)
1987-1988 Search Committee for Evolutionary Geneticist (Chairman)
1987-1988 Ad-hoc Committee on Statistics (Chairman)
1988 -1989 Search Committee for Evolutionary Biologist
1988-1989 Search Committee for Evolutionary Morphologist
1989-1990 Search Committee for Evolutionary Geneticist (Chairman)
1989-1990 Search Committee for Evolutionary Morphologists
1990-1993 Interim Dean of Biology
1990-1992 University Biomedical Research Support Commmitee, (Chairman)
1990-1992 Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (member 1990-1991,
observer, 1991-1992)
1990-1993 Biology Curriculum Committee
1990-1993 Executive Staff (Biology and Medicine)
1990-1992 Medical Council
1990-1992 Medical Faculty Council
1990-1992 Academic Awards Committee (Biology and Medicine)
1990-1991 Search Committee for Dean of Biological Sciences (Chairman)
1991-1992 Search Committee for Dean of Medicine and Biological Sciences
1991-1996 NIH Training Grant in Environmental Pathology, Executive
1993-1995 Department Chairs Agenda Committee
1993-2002 Chairman, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
1993-1995 Committee to Establish Guidelines and Procedures for New
Departments (Biology and Medicine)
1993-1994 Search Committee for Marine Ecologist (Chairman)
1993-1994 Committee on Mission for Division of Biology and Medicine
1993-1994 Committee on Mission for Program in Biology (Chairman)
1994-1995 Task Force to Develop Environmental Science (Co-chairman)
1994-1995 Committee to Develop Strategic Plan for Division of Biology and
1994-1995 Search Committee for Evolutionary Morphologist
1997-1998 Building Committee for Division of Biology and Medicine
1998-1999 Search Committee for Conservation Biologist (Chairman)
1999-2000 Search Committee for Dean of Faculty
2000-2002 University Committee on Endowed Chairs
2001-2002 Steering Committee for Strategic Plan, Division of Biology and Medicine
2003- Editor, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Newsletter

Funded Research

Research Grants:

National Science Foundation
"Behavioral aspects of competitive interspecific relationships"
$19,100, 1967-1970

National Science Foundation
"The roles of social behavior, resource supply, and vegetation in habitat utilization"
$20,000, 1971-1974, extended to 1975

National Science Foundation
"Foraging ecology: the role of several factors"
$35,000, 1976-1978

National Science Foundation
"Foraging ecology: the role of several factors"
$105,000, 1978-1981

National Science Foundation
"Foraging ecology"
$60,000, 1982-1984

National Science Foundation
"Foraging ecology"
$80,000, 1984-1986

National Science Foundation
"Fitness consequences of variable foraging"
$70,000, 1986-1988

National Science Foundation
"Fitness consequences of variable foraging"
$15,000, 1990-1992

National Science Foundation
"Factors affecting performance in foraging"
$75,000, 1994-1997

National Science Foundation
"Factors affecting performance in foraging" (continuation)
$120,000 (+ supplement of $5000 in 2000), 1999-2003

Biomedical Science, University of Maryland
"The frequency and intensity of agonistic behavior with varying food supplies"
$2,060, 1969-1970

Biomedical Science, University of Maryland
"Population density and agonistic behavior under varying food supplies"
$2,400, 1970-1971

General Research Board, University of Maryland
"Foraging strategies of bumblebees (Bombus)"
$2,500, 1975-1976

Brown University, BRSG
"The role of spatial heterogeneity in host-parasitoid relationships"
$5,426, 1990-1991

Teaching Experience


Bio 143 Problems in Field Biology 1979-2003

Bio 148 Vertebrate Ecology 1979-84

Bio 195/196 Independent Study 1979-present (38 students)

Bio 12 Current Concepts in Biology II (team) 1980-84

Bio 4 Ecology in Current Society -1985-88

Bio 46 Insect Biology 1989-present

Bio 19.8 Natural History of the
New England Landscape - 2004

Bio 293 Graduate Seminar in 1984-85
Pollination Biology

Bio 244 Graduate Seminar in 1987-88
Life-history Strategies

Bio 243 Graduate Seminar in 1990-91
Mutualistic Interactions

Bio 243 Graduate Seminar in 1994-95, 2000-01
the Genetical Theory of
Evolution and the Modern

Bio 244 Graduate Seminar in 1998-99
Conservation Biology

Additional courses taught at the University of Maryland, 1966-1979: Introductory Ecology, Population and Community Ecology, Ecology and Population Biology, Behavioral Ecology, Graduate Seminar in Ecology, Graduate Research in Ecology, Comparative Anatomy, Evolution, Vertebrate Zoology.