I was born in 1933 in Murphysboro in southern Illinois. My undergraduate work (1951-1955) was at Southern Illinois University (SIU) in Carbondale, eight miles away. I majored in zoology taking such courses as ecology and limnology from Willard Gersbacher (a student of Victor E. Shelford) and wildlife conservation from W.D. Klimstra. My botany minor included plant ecology and plant geography with John Voigt (whose major professor was John Weaver of the University of Nebraska).

I took a Ph.D.(1959) at the University of Illinois (Champaign-Urbana) with S. Charles Kendeigh, who was Shelford’s successor. Shelford still had an office at the Vivarium Building and worked there every weekday completing The Ecology of North America. I also learned a great deal from the plant ecologist Arthur G. Vestal. Most of Kendeigh’s students in the mid to late 1950s were working on physiological ecology projects, mainly energy balance in various finches. My thesis topic, however, dealt with the ecological and evolutionary relationships of black-capped and Carolina chickadees (Poecile atricapillus and P. carolinensis)

Photo (1979) by Philip Brewer

Photo (1979) by Philip Brewer

After completing my degree, I moved to Michigan and spent 37 years in the Biology Department at Western Michigan University.

Before retirement in 1996, I taught courses in ecology, conservation biology, and ornithology. Like Kendeigh and Shelford, I’ve been interested in these topics as subjects both for research and for practical societal application. These interests began earlier than graduate school. I was one of seven students who graduated from Murphysboro Township High School between 1948 and 1952 that went on to obtain doctorates in biology. The other six were Bill Hardy, Tom Collins, Pat Hatcher, Bob Mohlenbrock, Kenny Stewart, and Wallace Weber. The school of about 450 students was a hotbed of biological study stemming mostly from the encouragement of the biology teacher, E. Esther Smith.

Some research topics that have particularly interested me include how birds become distributed (behaviorally and evolutionarily) into different vegetation types, the evolution of life histories of both birds and plants, and how vegetation changes, or doesn’t change, with time. Most of my research has dealt with organisms and ecosystems in southwest Michigan.

I have two excellent sons, both grown–Philip, who has returned to his birthplace of Champaign-Urbana, and Steven, who lives in Amherst, Massachusetts. Both have interesting websites which include, among other things, on-line journals. Steve has two sons, in school in Amherst.


Photo of Phil and Steve 1971 copyright © 2003 Richard Brewer



6 thoughts on “About

  1. Julie Weiss

    Dear Dr. Brewer,
    I would like to communicate with you about Jean Klock Park. Although the state supreme court very unfortunately declined to hear argument on the Klock deed, the federal lawsuit is still on appeal. Thank you.

  2. Dora Elisa Perez

    Hello Doctor Brewer, greetings from Honduras. It is nice to have news from you. I would like to tell you about some work I have been doing with Amazilia luciae, if it is possible.

  3. William Bowerman

    Dear Dr. Brewer,
    On September 22nd I will be honored with the Distinguished Alumni Award from Northern Michigan University. Your encouragement to pursue my bald eagle research project, which started as an assignment in your Ecology class, began a wonderful journey. Thank you again for opening my eyes to this opportunity.
    My Best,
    Bill Bowerman, BA ’85
    Professor and Chair
    Department of Environmental Science & Technology
    University of Maryland, College Park

  4. John Taggart

    Dear Dr. Brewer,

    You may remember me as a tennis player who graduated back in 1970. I then moved to NC for graduate school (M.S. at NCSU and Ph.D. at UNC-Chapel Hill) in botany and decided to stay. I worked in state government as a biologist/program administrator for 27 years and then received a faculty appointment at UNCW in 2006: http://people.uncw.edu/taggartj/.

    I recently re-connected with Dr. Pippen after all these years and wanted to do the same with you. I sincerely appreciated your excellent teaching and guidance relative to my career path. Thank you so much.

    Best regards,
    John Taggart

  5. Richard B. Flegel

    Dear Dr. Brewer,
    Upon reflection of my time spent at WMU I thought of your contributions to my interest in nature and nature preservation in general. I still recall some aspects of your Ecology class in the 1967 to 1970 time frame. I also worked for you doing strip surveys and in bird skeleton preparation under the guidance of a grad assistant.

    You also were involved in my family’s donation of land along the Portage River in St. Joseph County. The Nature Conservancy land trust activities are so valuable. Thanks for the inspiration and continued work in protecting our environment.

    Richard Flegel

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