Symposium celebrates influential career of biologist Burney Le Boeuf

Burney Le Boeuf

Colleagues and former students of biologist Burney Le Boeuf gathered at the Seymour Center at Long Marine Lab on Sunday, March 13, to celebrate his career. Le Boeuf, a professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology, is known as a pioneer in the field of marine mammal behavior.

The speakers at the symposium represented the broad range of Le Boeuf's research interests, said Claudio Campagna, one of the organizers of the event. "He worked in many different disciplines and approaches to biology, so the symposium is an opportunity to see a career that evolved from comparative psychology to sociobiology to marine biology," said Campagna, a conservation biologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society who earned his Ph.D. in biology at UCSC.

In recent years, Le Boeuf has held several administrative positions at UCSC, serving as interim vice chancellor and associate vice chancellor for research and as managing director of the University Affiliated Research Center (UARC). He is currently director of the Aligned Research Program of the UARC, a program that makes awards to UC faculty for research aligned with the mission of the NASA Ames Research Center.

Le Boeuf is best known for his pioneering work on the social and reproductive behavior of elephant seals, as well as their diving, foraging, and migratory behavior. He has conducted extensive research on the behavioral ecology and physiology of a variety of marine mammals, and also investigated the effects of environmental pollutants such as DDT on marine mammals. While much of his research on elephant seals was conducted at nearby Año Nuevo Island Reserve, Le Boeuf has led expeditions to research sites throughout the world, including Mexico, Argentina, the Galapagos Islands, and Japan.

"Burney worked with students from many different countries, so it is a very international group of students who gathered for this symposium," said Campagna, who came to UCSC from Argentina.

Speakers at the symposium included Lewis Petrinovich, professor emeritus of psychology at UC Riverside; Gerald Kooyman, professor emeritus of biology at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD; and UCSC colleagues James Estes and Terrie Williams, both professors of ecology and evolutionary biology. Former students of Le Boeuf who spoke included Sarah Mesnick, an ecologist at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC) and cofounder of the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at the Scripps Institution; Richard Condit, a staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute; and John Francis, vice president for research, conservation, and exploration at the National Geographic Society.

The event was organized by Campagna, Condit, Susanna Blackwell, and Joanne Reiter, and sponsored by UCSC's Institute of Marine Sciences, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and Seymour Marine Discovery Center.

group photo of symposium participants

Symposium participants at the Seymour Center. Photo by Tony Huntley.