• Title Professor of Biology
  • Education PhD, Duke University, 1976
  • Web Address https://www.rprimacklab.com/
  • Phone 617-353-2454
  • Area of Interest impact of climate change on plants, birds and insects; conservation biology; timing of leaf out, leaf senescence, and fruiting; rare plants; noise pollution
  • CV

Current Research

Our lab focuses on how climate change affects the flowering, leafing out, fruiting, and leaf senescence times of plants, the migration times of birds and the flight times of insects in Massachusetts, and the potential for ecological mismatches among species caused by changes in timing. The main geographical focus is Concord, Massachusetts, due to the availability of extensive phenological and species abundance records kept by Henry David Thoreau and later naturalists. We are currently comparing our results from Concord with long-term changes at Acadia National Park in Maine. At the Arnold Arboretum and an international network of botanical gardens, we investigate variation among over 1600 species in leafing out times, leaf senescence times, and fruiting times and the physiological control of these processes. We compare on the ground observations with similar observations made using remote sensing and drones. A new interest is investigating noise pollution in protected areas. An ongoing activity involves producing conservation biology textbooks and working with co-authors to produce textbooks in other languages. In addition, Richard Primack serves as Editor of the international journal Biological Conservation.

Please send an email to Richard Primack if you are interested in graduate studies in his lab.

For popular articles about our work, visit BU News.

The most current source of our activities, including the Conservation Biology Translation Project, can be found on our lab blog.

Selected Publications

  • Willis CG, Ellwood ER, 
Primack RB, Davis CC, Pearson KD, Gallinat AS et al. (2017) Old plants, new tricks: Phenological research using herbarium specimens. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 32(7): 531-546.
  • Stegman LS, Primack RB, Gallinat AS Lloyd-Evans TL, Ellwood ER (2017) Reduced sampling frequency can still detect changes in abundance and phenology of migratory landbirds. Biological Conservation 210: 107–115.
  • Primack RB, Gallinat AS (2016) Spring budburst in a changing climate. American Scientist 104: 102-109.
  • Primack RB, Sher AA (2016) An Introduction to Conservation Biology. First Edition. Sinauer Associates, Sunderland, MA. 476 pages. Oxford University Press.
  • Gallinat AS, Primack RB, Wagner DL (2015) Autumn, the neglected season: five crucial topics in autumn phenology. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 169-176.
  • Primack RB, Laube J, Gallinat A, Menzel A (2015) From observations to experiments in phenology research: investigating climate change impacts on trees and shrubs using dormant twigs. Annals of Botany 116(6) 889-97.
  • Primack RB (2014) Walden Warming: Climate Change Comes to Thoreau’s Woods. University of Chicago Press.
  • Panchen ZA, Primack RB, Nordt B, Ellwood ER, Stevens AD, Renner SS, Willis CG, Fahey, Whittemore RA, Du Y, Davis CC (2014) Leaf out times of temperate woody plants are related to phylogeny, deciduousness, growth habit, and wood anatomy. New Phytol. 203: 1208-1219.

Courses Taught:

  • KHC BI 101 Freshman Honors Seminar, Climate Change Biology in Massachusetts: What Would Henry Say.
  • BI 448/648 Conservation Biology

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