Richard B. Primack

Professor, Biology

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PhD, Duke University, 1976

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Professor Richard B. Primack is currently 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… Read more

Professor Richard B. Primack is currently 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. He is 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. He is also comparing 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, Primack serves as Editor-in-Chief of the international journal Biological Conservation.

In the Media

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  • How Thoreau Helped Make Walden Pond One Of The Best Places To Study Climate Change In The U.S.

    July 12, 2017

    WBUR quoting Richard Primack, College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences “Today is the 200th birthday of author, activist and abolitionist Henry David Thoreau…” Expert quote: “We know that climate change is partially responsible. A lot of the species that have declined the most are the cold-loving, northern wild flowers.” View full article. 

  • Mount Auburn Cemetery Tree Trackers Gather Climate Data Amid Changing Beauty

    June 28, 2017

    WBUR quoting Richard Primack, College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences “About 10 years ago, Liza Ketchum of Watertown noticed that the peonies in her garden were unfurling their big, showy blooms more than three weeks earlier than normal…” Expert quote: “What we know is that plants are now flowering about two weeks earlier than […]

  • Taking the Pulse of the Planet

    May 22, 2017

    Undark quoting Richard Primack, College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences “EACH YEAR, as the earth’s tilt eases back toward the sun, the wintry northern hemisphere gives way to spring, and thousands of species of plants, insects, and animals stir back to life…” Expert quote: “Now we’re in a distinct warming period because of […]

  • Spring’s early arrival is a troubling indicator of climate change

    May 8, 2017

    WGBH Richard Primack, College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences “It’s spring, and everywhere you look flowers are blooming and trees are sprouting leaves…” Expert quote: “There’s actually a plant I never noticed here before,” he said. “Maybe it could be new. This is a bigtooth aspen.” View full interview. 

  • Half of All Species Are on the Move—And We’re Feeling It

    May 2, 2017

    National Geographic Richard Primack, College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences “The shrubs probably responded first. In the 19th century, alder and flowering willows in the Alaskan Arctic stood no taller than a small child—just a little over three feet…” Expert quote: “Everywhere throughout the world, things are happening earlier in the spring—in China, Japan, Korea, […]

  • Should we be worried about our cherry blossoms because of climate change?

    April 5, 2017

    Deutsche Welle Richard Primack, College of Arts and Sciences With spring rapidly progressing, cherry trees all over the world are beginning to bloom earlier… Expert quote: ““For anyone who has never seen it, you really couldn’t believe what happens in Japan at that time of year,” Richard Primack, plant ecologist and professor of biology at […]

  • Early bird special: Spring pops up super early in much of US

    March 1, 2017

    Associated Press Richard Primack, College of Arts and Sciences Spring has sprung early — potentially record early — in much of the United States, bringing celebrations of shorts weather mixed with unease about a climate gone askew… Expert quote: “Crocuses and snowdrops are in full flower in suburban Boston — all exceptionally early because of […]

  • What the Muck of Walden Pond Tells Us About Our Planet

    January 9, 2017

    New York Times Richard Primack, College of Arts & Sciences In 1845, Henry David Thoreau repaired to a cabin in the woods beside Walden Pond “to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach.”… Expert quote: The Boston University ecologist Richard Primack compared dates […]

  • How a Changing Climate Is Shaping a Leaf Peeper’s Paradise

    November 3, 2016

    New York Times Richard Primack, College of Arts & Sciences A century ago, the flaming fall foliage in Nova Scotia would have long faded by early November… Expert quote: “In general, peak leaf color in Concord and the surrounding Boston area for these maples is now more typically a week or two later.” View full […]

  • The Impact Of This Year’s Drought On Fall Foliage Season

    October 11, 2016

    WBUR Richard Primack, College of Arts & Sciences The air is crisp, the sky is a brilliant blue, the Red Sox are battling to stay in the postseason…it’s autumn in New England, no question about it. Expert quote: “It’s very striking because during the height of the drought in July and August and the very […]

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