UGA Libraries Logo

Interview with Stuart Chapin III, July 1, 2015

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
Toggle Index/Transcript View Switch.
Search this Index
00:00:19 - Background / Undergraduate education

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Terry, can you please tell me just a little bit about where you were born and raised and how you first got attracted to the field of ecology?

Segment Synopsis: Chapin says that he grew up in North Carolina and then attended Swarthmore College, where he took his first ecology course. He talks about two people who influenced him at Swarthmore, Bob Enders and Bill Dennison. He discusses writing a paper about artic and alpine plants, and notes how the papers of Hal Mooney and Dwight Billings influenced him. He was recalls gaining field experience by travelling to Costa Rica with Dennison and spending a summer at the Rocky Mountatin Biology Lab.

Keywords: Portland, Oregon; Washington D.C; biology; fungi; hiking; mammals; natural history

00:06:24 - Peace Corps in Colombia

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Yeah, and so then what was your path, getting engaged as a undergraduate where did you take things?

Segment Synopsis: Chapin says that after he graduated from Swarthmore he joined the Peace Corps with his wife, where he taught biology in Colombia to figure out if he wanted to go to graduate school and be a teacher. He talks about how the Colombian school system was very focused on memorization, so he tried to focus more on getting his students to think logically. He discusses meeting with Hal Mooney and Peter Raven when they were passing though Bogota on their way to Chile so he could discuss attending graduate school at Stanford and working with Mooney.

Keywords: Dwight Billings; convergent evolution; mechanisms; patters; socratic method

00:14:45 - Civil rights participation

Play segment

Partial Transcript: So at what point in time was it that you got arrested?

Segment Synopsis: Chapin discusses advocating for civil rights by participating in sit-ins in the 1960s at Chapel Hill, NC and at Swarthmore. He also talks about his involvement in the Ecological Society of America's SEED Program, which was set up to help minorities and increase diversity in the ecology profession.

Keywords: Alaska; indigenous communities; language; peace corps; segregation

00:20:31 - Graduate research

Play segment

Partial Transcript: So let's take a step back and then say "okay here we are Terry Chapin the young graduate student", what were you really excited about as a graduate student?

Segment Synopsis: Chapin talks about receiving funding to study re-vegetation along the Alaskan Pipeline while he was a student at Stanford. His other thesis project was studying phosphorus absorption along latitudinal gradients. He also discusses his relationships with his mentor, Hal Mooney, and his fellow graduate student, Gus Shaver, who were both very helpful during this time.

Keywords: CAT bulldozer; California; Dwight Billings; Fairbanks, Alaska; Larry Bliss; University of Alaska; disturbance; physiological ecology; sedge populations

00:30:50 - Post-graduate work and research

Play segment

Partial Transcript: So I guess I'm interested then, as you were coming out of your Ph.D, sort of tried the waters a bit, what were you fired up about doing at that point?

Segment Synopsis: Chapin talks about what he did after earning his Ph.D, saying that he worked at Point Barrow, Alaska as part of the IBP (International Biological Program) tundra ecosystem program. He recalls later being offered an assistant professor position at the University of Alaska, where he stayed for 16 years. He moved to Berkeley for about 10 years and then returned to Alaska. He also discusses his more recent interest in the human impacts to ecosystem processes.

Keywords: Brent McCown; Institute of Arctic Biology; carbon balance; ecosystem ecology; ecosystems processes; inorganic phosphorus; latitude gradient; microbes; nutrients

00:39:04 - Important contributions to ecology / Work in the Arctic

Play segment

Partial Transcript: And so what do you think, looking back over your career, what do you think have been the most important contributions from your perspective?

Segment Synopsis: Chapin discusses some his important contributions to ecology, such as his study of mineral nutrition in wild plants while on a sabbatical at Oxford University, and his research on plant growth. He attributes high importance to mentoring students. He also reflects back on the reasons he chose to work in the arctic, saying that he liked the simplicity of the flora there as opposed to the tropics.

Keywords: Peter Vitousek; Toolik Field Station; nitrogen fixers; non-agricultural plants; phosphorus; physiological ecology; plant hormones; symbiotic relationships

00:47:44 - Personal life

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Well, I want to talk a little bit about the personal side of your career?

Segment Synopsis: Chapin talks about how his wife is a great collaborator and how she has edited and illustrated his textbooks. He discusses raising a family and building a house while also doing field work. Chapin also talks about the benefit of working in Alaska while his sons were in school because of Alaska's great public education system.

Keywords: Alaskan pipeline; Berkeley; University of Alaska; blueberries; peace corps; urban areas

00:54:42 - Changes in ecology / Development of ESA

Play segment

Partial Transcript: One of the other things that we wanted to talk about in this interview is, sort of more broadly, is the development of ecology as a discipline.

Segment Synopsis: Chapin discusses ecologists' growing attention to the ways in which humans are affecting ecosystem change, noting a shift towards starting to think about solutions. He discusses the role of the ESA (Ecological Society of America) in this, saying that the organization used to be strictly academically focused but has begun to be involved with topic of sustainability.

Keywords: Ecosystem Stewardship Initiative; Hal Mooney; Jane Lubchenco; Jerry Mellilo; The Nature Conservancy; sustainable biosphere

00:59:52 - Potential role of ESA

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Terry, let's talk a little bit more about the Ecological Society. What do you see as the potential role the the Ecological Society of America could play in the future?

Segment Synopsis: Chapin recalls how in the past, the primary role of ESA was to provide professional ecologists with a place to share their ideas. He discusses the need for the ESA to become more interdisciplinary and get involved with helping people understand how ecosystems work, and says that the ESA's policy office and education programs are a step toward this.

Keywords: ecological services; economics; environmental evangelicals; faith; pristine systems

01:07:08 - Alaska intiatives

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Now you've been working on some interesting initiatives that follow along those lines in Alaska, can you talk about that?

Segment Synopsis: Chapin discusses the indigenous communities in Alaska and talks about involving them in research studies. He also discusses a program at the University of Alaska that works to improve native communities' self-reliance.

Keywords: Alaska Center for Energy and Power; collaborative research; diesel power systesm; renewable energy