Faculty Profiles

Richard Primack

Richard B. Primack

Professor of Biology

PhD, Duke University, 1976
Areas of interest: impact of climate change on plants and animals; conservation biology; timing of leaf out and leaf senescence; rare plants; tropical forests
(617) 353-2454


Current Research

We are investigating the impact of climate change on the flowering and leafing out times of plants, the spring arrival of birds and the flight times of insects in Massachusetts, Japan, and South Korea, and the potential for ecological mismatches among species caused by climate change. The main geographical focus is Concord, Massachusetts, due to the availability of extensive phenological records kept by Henry David Thoreau and later naturalists. We are using Concord as a living laboratory to determine the effects of climate change species, and land use changes on the population dynamics of native and non-native species. We are also comparing our results from Concord with long-term changes at Acadia National Park in Maine. An expanding interest is the variation among species in leafing out times and leaf senescence times, and the physiological control of these processes. An ongoing activity involves producing conservation biology textbooks and working with co-authors to produce textbooks in other languages. In addition, Richard Primack serves as Editor-in-Chief of the international journal Biological Conservation.

For popular articles about my work, visit: http://www.bu.edu/news/category/richard-primack/

Visit my website <http://people.bu.edu/primack> for more information on the Conservation Biology Translation Project and for copies of articles.

Courses Taught

  • BI 305 The Biology of Plants
  • BI 448/648 Conservation Biology

Selected Publications

  • Ellwood ER, Temple SA, Primack RB, Bradley NL, Davis CC (2013) Record-breaking early flowering in the eastern united states. PLoS One 8(1): e53788. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0053788
  • Polgar CA, Primack RB, Williams E, Stichter S, Hitchcock C (2013) The effect of temperature on the timing of the adult flight period of lycenid butterflies in massachusetts. Biological Conservation 160: 25-31.
  • Primack RB, Miller-Rushing AJ (2012) Uncovering, collecting and analyzing records to investigate the ecological impacts of climate change: A template from Thoreau's Concord. BioScience 62: 170-181.
  • Miller-Rushing AJ, Primack RB, Bonney R (2012) The history of public participation in ecological research. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 10: 285–290.
  • Primack RB (2012) Primer of Conservation Biology, Fifth Edition. Sinauer Associates, Sunderland, MA.
  • Panchen Z, Primack RB, Anisko T, Lyons RE (2012) Herbarium specimens, photographs and field observations show Philadelphia area plants are responding to climate change. American Journal of Botany 99: 751-756.
  • Polgar C, Primack RB (2011) Leaf-out phenology of temperate woody plants: From trees to ecosystems. Invited Tansley Review. New Phytologist. 191: 926-941
  • Corlett R, Primack RB (2011) Tropical Rain Forests: An Ecological and Biogeographical Comparison, Second Edition. Wiley-Blackwell Publishing.

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