Peter W. Price, ESA Fellow (2016)

Dr. Peter W. Price, Regents’ Professor Emeritus at Northern Arizona University (NAU), was elected as Fellow in 2016. He is internationally known as the author of the classic textbook Insect Ecology, based on his lectures at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC).

He was born south of London in Carshalton Beeches, Surrey, England, in 1938. Although his boyhood activities included Boy Scouts and natural history, with a preference for plants, he would not discover a love of entomology until after serving two years in the Royal Air Force as a radar technician in West Germany from 1957–1959, and subsequently entering university to study forestry. Field trips to dig beetles out of wood and hikes in the Welsh Mountains in Snowdonia fueled his love of collecting (particularly beetles) and entomology.

Price earned his B.S. Honors in 1962 from University College of North Wales and M.S. in 1964 in forest entomology from University of New Brunswick in Canada. He joined the Canadian Forest Service as a research entomologist for two years. He obtained his Ph.D. in 1970 in ecology and evolutionary biology from Cornell University, with a research focus on the coexistence of parasitoids on the Swaine jack pine sawfly. It was at Cornell that Price gained a strong foundation in conceptual ecology, evolutionary theory, and ethology, a turning point in his growth as a scientist. The foundations of his teaching techniques, from mentor Richard Root, were also formed there. Following his Ph.D., Price became an assistant then associate professor in the Department of Entomology, at UIUC. There, his research developed into the study of three trophic-level interactions between natural enemies, insect herbivores, and plants. Arriving at this common ground among the research projects, he and his Illinois graduate student co-authors produced the iconic paper, “Interactions Among Three Trophic Levels,” cited nearly 2,000 times. In 1979, he became a research ecologist at the Museum of Northern Arizona. The following year he accepted a professorship in the Department of Biology, NAU, where he retired in 2002. He published over 200 research papers and was featured in Spring 2016 American Entomologist recounting tales of the Trans-Siberian Railroad and a sabbatical in South Africa.

Price’s field research concentrated on insect ecology: plant and herbivore interactions, multiple trophic-level interactions, population dynamics, and the distribution and abundance of insects. He focused particularly on the ecology and long-term population dynamics of galling sawflies. He hypothesized that evolved characters of organisms, such as morphology, behavior, and life history, strongly influence ecological relationships—a concept captured in his book, Macroevolutionary Theory on Macroecological Patterns. Price also authored Evolutionary Biology of Parasites and Biological Evolution. He co-authored Insect Ecology: Behavior, Populations and Communities, offering competing perspectives of ecology. He co-edited Evolutionary Strategies of Parasitic Insects and Mites, A New Ecology and Plant-Animal Interactions.

Price served on the Archbold Biological Station Scientific Advisory Board, and been recognized with a Guggenheim Fellowship and Fulbright Senior Scholar Award. In 1993, the Price presented the Founders’ Memorial Lecture Award honoring Curtis P. Clausen. 

(updated November, 2016)