Longtime faculty member David Stephens became head of the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior (EEB) earlier this month. Stephens, who joined the department in 1997, studies experimental behavioral ecology, animal decision-making, evolutionary approaches to animal cognition, and learning and memory as adaptations. We asked him about his priorities for the department going forward.
EEB already has an outstanding reputation. What areas of opportunity do you see for the department?
"EEB is an exciting and fun community of scholars. Keeping that sense of community and shared enjoyment in our subject matter is my central goal as incoming department head. It’s a goal that has lots of pieces. We need to develop and retain the amazing cohort of young faculty that we have hired over the last several years, and at same time we must maintain the strength of our department’s most established researchers.
"I would also like to focus on maintaining and improving the financial well-being of the department. The basic funding mechanisms for American science are changing rapidly, and not necessarily for the better. I expect that adjusting to these changes will be a major order of business in EEB, and many similar departments, for the next several years."
What's something about the department that people may not know?
"People rightly think of EEB as a strong, research-oriented department, so they are sometimes surprised to hear about EEB’s equally strong commitment to undergraduate teaching. We love our undergrads. We talk about them and their accomplishments constantly. We are continually impressed and invigorated by our interactions with the undergrads who take our classes and work in our labs."