B.S., Denison University
M.S., Yale University
Ph.D., Yale University
Citation awarded May, 1998
Eugene Morton is one of the nation’s leading research zoologists and ornithologists. He is senior scientist at the National Zoological Park of the Smithsonian Institution and he serves concurrently as adjunct professor at the University of Maryland. Gene holds the M.S. and the Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from Yale University.
Gene’s research field is behavioral ecology and the evolution of behavior in birds and other animals, with a focus on adaptation and sexual selection. He uses cross-disciplinary approaches to include, for example, acoustics in his research on vocal communication, and DNA fingerprinting in his studies of social behavior. Much of Gene’s work has been carried out in the tropics. Because of rapid forest destruction there, he incorporates a conservation theme into his research and teaching.
The author of scores of publications in professional journals, Gene also writes for the educated public. For example, his work has appeared in journals such as The American Biology Teacher and Living Bird Quarterly. He is co-author of Lord of the Air: The Smithsonian Book of Birds (1989) and of Animal Talk: Science and the Voices of Nature, a book on animal communication and the origin of human speech (Random house, 1992). Gene’s newest book, The Evolution of Vocal Communication, was published this spring by the Cambridge University Press. Gene has also appeared on the television show Smithsonian World.
As a student at Denison, Gene compiled a species list of birds for the Denison Biological Reserve. He visited Denison as a speaker for a retirement symposium honoring the late Professor Robert W. Alrutz. Gene has also served Denison as a career advisor and a member of his 25th reunion class gift committee.
Gene’s visit to Denison for his reunion this year comes in the midst of a field research trip to western Pennsylvania, where he and his wife Bridget, also an ornithologist, are studying migratory and breeding patterns of the Acadian Flycatcher. Gene and Bridget have a son, Douglas. When not travelling for their research, the Mortons make their home in Front Royal, Virginia.