• Title Professor of Biology
  • Education PhD, Duke University
  • Web Address https://www.rprimacklab.com/
  • Phone 617-353-2454
  • Area of Interest impact of climate change on the phenology plants, birds and insects; conservation biology; noise pollution; ecological and conservation impacts of the pandemic
  • CV

Current Research

Our lab focuses on how climate change affects the flowering, leafing out, fruiting, and leaf senescence times of plants, the migration times of birds and the flight times of insects in Massachusetts. We consider the potential for ecological mismatches among species caused by changes in timing, especially the differences in the sensitivity of trees and wildflowers to spring warming. Our main focus is Concord, Massachusetts, due to the availability of extensive phenological and species abundance records kept by Henry David Thoreau and later naturalists. We are expanding the geographic range of our investigations to Eastern North America, Europe, and East Asia using the perspective provided by herbarium specimens. We are also participating in an international network of botanical gardens investigating variation among herbaceous perennial species in phenology. An additional interest is investigating noise pollution in protected areas and cities. An ongoing activity involves producing conservation biology textbooks and working with co-authors to produce textbooks in other languages. Over the past nine months, we have also been investigating the ecological and conservation impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, including its effects of management, research, and education.

Please send an email to Richard Primack if you are interested in graduate studies in his lab.

For popular articles about our work, visit BU News.

The most current source of our activities, including the Conservation Biology Translation Project, can be found on our lab blog.

Selected Publications

  • Sullivan, MJP, …Primack. RB et al. (2020) Long-term thermal sensitivity of Earth’s tropical forests. Science 22 May 2020 doi: 10.1126/science.aaw7578.
  • Corlett, RA Primack, RB et al. (2020) Impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on biodiversity conservation. Biological Conservation 246, 108571. doi: 10.1016/j.biocon.2020.108571.
  • Rutz, C …Primack, RB et al. (2020) COVID-19 lockdown allows researchers to quantify the effects of human activity on wildlife. Nature Ecology & Evolution doi: 10.1038/s41559-020-1237-z.
  • Sher, AA, Primack, RB (2019) An Introduction to Conservation Biology. Second Edition. Sinauer Associates, Sunderland, MA. 512 pages. Oxford University Press
  • Heberling JM, McDonough MacKenzie C, Fridley JD, Kalisz S, Primack RB (2019) Phenological mismatch with trees reduces wildflower carbon budgets. Ecology Letters doi: 10.1111/ele.13224.
  • Willis CG, Ellwood ER, 
Primack RB, Davis CC, Pearson KD, Gallinat AS et al. (2017) Old plants, new tricks: Phenological research using herbarium specimens. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 32(7): 531-546.
  • Pearse WD, Davis CC, Inouye D, Primack RB, Davies TJ (2017) Measuring the limits of phenology: estimating synchrony and variation in contemporary, historic, and citizen-science datasets. Nature Ecology and Evolution 1: 1876–1882.
  • Gallinat AS, Primack RB, Wagner DL (2015) Autumn, the neglected season: five crucial topics in autumn phenology. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 169-176.
  • Courses Taught:

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

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