Biodiversity Expert Joins Yale's Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department

Michael J. Donoghue, an expert in biodiversity at Harvard University, has been named the G. Evelyn Hutchinson Professor in Yale’s burgeoning Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB).

Donoghue joins the department at a time of growth in areas such as ecology and systematics-the study of biological diversity and evolutionary change.

“Donoghue’s arrival greatly extends EEB’s teaching and research presence in the area of biodiversity,” said Gunter Wagner, professor and chair of EEB. “He possesses great creativity and vision and matches our goals in building a first-class department.”

In his research, Donoghue combines particular groups of organisms, especially flowering plants and fungi, with theoretical work on the principles of systematics. At Harvard, he has served as director of the Herbaria and professor in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology.

In 1998, Yale officially split its biology department into EEB and the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology. Donoghue is the first full professor to be recruited and will join the faculty in July 2000.

The department’s progress in attracting strong faculty like Donoghue will enhance Yale’s dedication to environmental research and education, said Pierre Hohenberg, deputy provost for science and technology.

The University has committed more than $55 million in the past two years toward strengthening an environmental partnership that includes EEB, the Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies, the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, the Peabody Museum of Natural History and the Department of Geology and Geophysics.

“I am extremely excited to join Yale at a time when there is such clear commitment to building a powerful environmental partnership,” Donoghue said. “I am eager to help shape EEB, especially in the area of biodiversity, and have been impressed with the level of Yale’s dedication to this project. In general, I see myself providing links among EEB, the Peabody Museum, and the forestry school. ”

Yale’s enhancement of its environmental partnership includes construction of an Environmental Sciences Facility, the first new structure on Yale’s “Science Hill” section of campus since The Bass Center for Molecular and Structural Biology was opened in 1993. The new facility will house collections from the Peabody Museum, the Institute for Biospheric Studies, undergraduate teaching facilities, research laboratories and offices for faculty from EEB, forestry, anthropology and geology and geophysics.

“Michael Donoghue’s appointment is an important milestone in creating an outstanding department of ecology and evolutionary biology,” said Provost Alison Richard. “We are thrilled that he will become a member of the Yale faculty. His presence will help propel EEB to the heights of international scientific recognition we seek for the department, and I know that he will also be an inspired teacher and mentor for Yale students at all levels.”

Through his role as a founding member of the external advisory board to the Institute for Biospheric Studies, Donoghue is a well-known figure on the Yale campus.

Donoghue’s research focuses on understanding the origin and diversification of flowering plants and he is spearheading a new system for naming plants and animals called phylogenetic nomenclature, which might eventually replace the Linnaean nomenclatural system.

“We’re writing a new code of nomenclature centered on phylogeny – the tree of life,” Donoghue said. “Evolution wasn’t really a factor in the old code, whereas it is fundamental to the new naming procedures.”

The author of about 100 published papers, Donoghue has been at Harvard University for the past six years. He attended Michigan State University as an undergraduate and received a Ph.D. in biology from Harvard in 1982. He has taught at San Diego University, the University of Arizona, and was a visiting professor at Stanford University last year.

Donoghue was a Senior Mellon Fellow at the Smithsonian Institution from 1992-94; was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1997; was the Glaser Distinguished Visiting Professor at Florida International University in 1998; and now serves on the U.S. National Academy’s Committee for the International Union of Biological Sciences. He was also President of the Society of Systematic Biologists from 1994-95.

Donoghue has organized several student training grants related to biodiversity and is currently funded for studies of plant and fungal diversity in the Eastern Himalayan region of China, and for molecular phylogenetic studies in both plants and fungi. Donoghue also coordinates a database of phylogenetic knowledge, called TreeBASE.

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Media Contact

Karen N. Peart: karen.peart@yale.edu, 203-432-1326