The Excellence Awards - 2000

Excellence in Research
Jerram Brown

Jerram L. Brown (Biological Sciences)

Jerram L. Brown has had a remarkably diverse research career, with significant contributions in neurobiology, ethology, evolutionary biology, behavioral ecology and sociobiology. In all of these areas, the hallmark of his work has been insightful thinking that has in each case brought new clarity to major conceptual issues in the field.

Brown, who joined the University in 1978, has published more than 80 papers in refereed journals, including Science, Nature and the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Two of his papers have been named Citation Classics.

Brown earned his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, where he began his studies of the behavior of jays, a research theme that continues today. Beginning with a post-doctoral fellowship in Zurich, he began a series of studies on brain mechanisms controlling various relatively stereotyped behaviors such as bird song. These were among the earliest studies in the field of neuroethology, a term coined by Brown himself.

In 1975 he published The Evolution of Behavior, which has been ranked among the 10 most important books in animal behavior by the Animal Behavior Society. This book helped pave the way for the explosive development of the fields of behavioral ecology and sociobiology that occurred during the 1980s.

Brown spearheaded the first international meeting of practitioners in the emerging field of behavioral ecology in Albany in 1986. In 1987 he published Helping and Communal Breeding in Birds: Ecology and Evolution, which remains influential to this day. Brown is generally recognized as the world’s leading theoretician in the areas of cooperative and communal breeding in vertebrates.

Finally, Brown does not put his name on his graduate students’ work, allowing them to reap the full benefits of publication.

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