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Paul Ehrlich

Paul R. Ehrlich, President of Center for Conservation Biology, Stanford University, is an entomologist specializing in Lepidoptera (butterflies). He is also well known as a researcher and author on the subject of human overpopulation.

Paul Ehrlich authored The Population Bomb and Ecoscience. Ehrlich's work in the 1970s and 1980s provided a whole new foundation for environmental science

Ehrlich earned a B.A. in zoology in 1953 at the University of Pennsylvania, an M.A. in 1955 at the University of Kansas, and a Ph.D. in 1957, also at the University of Miami, under the prominent bee researcher C.D. Michener. During his studies he took part in surveys of insects on the Bering Sea and in the Canadian Arctic, and then on a National Institutes of Health fellowship, investigated the genetics and behavior of parasitic mites. From these tiny beginnings, he observed and shared his insights into nature's workings.

His best known book is The Population Bomb, published in 1968. According to target=Wikipedia Ehrlich">Wikipedia, Ehrlich predicted that the world would experience famines sometime between 1970 and 1985 due to population growth outstripping resources. His predictions did not come to pass. In the book's 1971 edition, the latter prediction had been removed. An oft-cited cause of these famine aversions is the "Green Revolution", as it was called by the U.S. Agency for International Development in 1968. Another oft-cited cause was the sharp drop in the fertility rate which occurred in the developed world during the 1960s and 1970s.

On the Wings of Checkerspots: a Model system for Population Biology Paul R. Ehrlich & Ilkka Hanski, eds., 2004. This book is a story about butterflies, whose beauty and variety fascinated us as children and fascinates us still. Hanski, a leading thinker in metapopulation ecology, studies checkerspot butterfly populations in Finland. Ehrlich, one of the leading ecologists and conservation biologist, investigates checkerspot butterfly populations in California. This book reports on and synthsizes the major long-term research of both workers' careers on the population biology of checkerspot butterflies.

Checkerspot butterflies have been used as a successful model system for more than four decades. This book presents the first synthesis of the broad range of studies of that system as conducted in Ehrlich's research group in Stanford and Hanski's research group in Helsinki. Ehrlich's long-term research project on Edith's checkerspot helped establish an integrated discipline of population biology in the 1960s and has contributed many fundamental insights into the ecological and evolutionary dynamics of populations.

Research on checkerspot butterflies demonstrates the benefits of long-term studies on model systems in population biology. One of the key messages is the pervasive influence of the small-scale spatial structure of populations and metapopulations on their ecology, genetics and evolutionary dynamics.

Ehrlich's long career has contributed much information, passion and understanding to the environmental sciences and public debate. His example is one of committment and public discussion. His mid-American roots are also noteworthy since he delves into global issues.