Noted Population Biologist Paul Ehrlich to Deliver Second Thornton-Massa Lecture at Colorado State April 9

Paul Ehrlich, whose contributions to evolutionary and population biology have included the seminal book "The Population Bomb," will be the speaker at the second annual Thornton-Massa Lecture at Colorado State University.

Ehrlich, who is Bing Professor of Population Studies in the Department of Biological Sciences at Stanford University, will speak at 7:30 p.m. April 9 in the Lory Student Center Theater. His talk is "Human Natures: Genes, Ethics and Conservation" and is free and open to the public.

Ehrlich’s address will conclude the fifth annual Rocky Mountain Plant Biotechnology and Molecular Biology Symposium, a one-day program featuring addresses by researchers, and poster sessions. Ehrlich will deliver the symposium’s keynote speech, "Tough Problems in Human Evolution and Environmental Ethics."

Ehrlich’s appearance is made possible by the generosity of Dr. Emil Massa of Denver and the late Bruce and Mildred Thornton, whose shared interest in biodiversity, improved plant genetics and related topics led them to endow an annual lecture through the College of Agricultural Science and College of Natural Sciences.

Ehrlich’s four-decade career has led him from field to laboratory to theoretical speculation on a wide variety of population issues. He has studied the dynamics and genetics of insect populations, the ecological and evolutionary interactions of plants and herbivores, the behavioral ecology of birds and reef fishes and the effects of crowding on human beings.

Author of more than 800 scientific and popular papers, Ehrlich’s first book, "The Population Bomb," garnered much attention upon its 1968 publication. Ehrlich is credited with bringing the issues of overpopulation and hunger to worldwide attention.

Ehrlich’s long-time interest in butterflies led to contributions to evolutionary biology, particularly the theory of coevolution developed with colleague Peter H. Raven. They found plants evolve defenses against the caterpillars that eat them and, in response, butterflies evolve means of avoiding those defenses – a theory critical in shaping insect resistance to pesticides.

Ehrlich has written more than 35 books. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Kansas.

He is honorary president of Zero Population Growth and was president of the American Institute of Biological Sciences. The Thornton-Massa Lecture Series supports an annual presentation on biodiversity, improved plant genetics and related topics.

Massa, a native of Cleveland, earned a medical degree in 1953 from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., and entered private practice in Denver in 1960. He retired in 1991.

Bruce and Mildred Thornton shared a lifelong interest in and commitment to the study, identification and preservation of seeds. Both were Colorado natives who attended Colorado State University, where both obtained master’s degrees in botany. They married in 1930.

Bruce Thornton served from 1927 to 1962 as a Colorado State faculty member and with the Agricultural Experiment Station staff. In addition to leading weed control investigations during this time, he headed the Colorado State Seed Laboratory from 1940 to 1961. Mildred Thornton worked full-time and later intermittently at the seed lab until her husband’s retirement in 1961. She took over the directorship and, during a nine-year tenure, oversaw the move to new facilities and continued to maintain the laboratory’s excellence in seed research and in the training of seed analysts. She received several awards for her work, including Colorado State’s Henry Award and Honor Alumna.

For more information on the lecture and program, call (970) 491-6974.