Lawrence Slobodkin: Trophic Pioneer

I just learned that Lawrence Slobodkin passed away last week. Slobodkin was one of the authors of the infamous HSS paper in 1960 that has shaped how we think of the role of predators in ecosystems for decades. Indeed, it is one of the very origins of the modern concept of trophic cascades. More than that, though, this was a man with broad ranging interests in biology. I think the New York Times Obit has some interesting points about his contribution to our understanding of the world, and includes this quote from Slobodkin:

Sometimes I chose research problems for their presumed importance, but often I was attracted by their beauty. My research and that of most of my friends is not a story of triumph but rather of fascination by nature.

A good model for us all.

4 thoughts on “Lawrence Slobodkin: Trophic Pioneer

  1. Wow, I had not heard. That is indeed very sad. He was definitely a pioneer, and helped to change not only the things that we think about in ecology, but also the ways in which we think about them. And definitely a friend to predators if ever there was one. Lovely quote too.

  2. Truly sad that he is gone. I first encountered this paper as an undergrad in a class organized by Leigh Van Valen, in which we had to write a weekly commentary on sets of papers with important conflicting views. I loved this exercise and remember writing about this paper–a wonderful respite from studying for a physics exam.
    Also sad that this model of scientist may be growing rarer. At least, the humbly fascinated don’t seem to make as good press as those with problem-solving banners. What seems to be missed is that informed fascination, not hubris, leads to insightful problem solving.

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