Department of Biology

Dan L. Perlman

Dan L. Perlman, Biology faculty member, Brandeis UniversityProfessor of Biology and Environmental Studies & Chair of Environmental Studies 

Research Description

Having received a Ph.D. from a department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, I continue to study and teach broadly in that area. I currently teach courses in Evolutionary EcologyConservation BiologyAnimal BehaviorField Biology, and Tropical Ecology and have researched and written in all these fields. My particular focus has been on the evolution of ant behavior and creating new method for setting priorities in the practice of conservation biology.

I am deeply interested in developing new and effective methods for teaching about ecology, conservation biology, and the environment. Working with my mentor and colleague E.O. Wilson of Harvard, a team of my former students and I created an interactive electronic textbook that has been used throughout the U.S. and in many other nations for teaching about conservation biology and environmental issues more broadly (Conserving Earth's Biodiversity CD-ROM, 2000, Island Press). I have recently been building on that experience in creating EcoLibrary, an online facility that allows teachers, students, and non-profit organizations to download top-quality images and text that are intended to help improve public understanding of the world in which we live. I am in the process of expanding EcoLibrary, adding materials such as maps, lesson plans, and interactive exercises.

My recent work also focuses on helping ecologists and conservation biologists work with land use planning and design professionals to improve land use — both for humans and natural ecosystems. I have furthered this work through workshops and lectures for professionals and publications such as Practical Ecology for Planners, Developers, and Citizens (2005, Island Press).

As part of my teaching at Brandeis, I have developed a number of innovative course assignments and exercises. In my courses I attempt to help students become expert on a given topic that helps them integrate the material of the course, while requiring them to learn skills that will be relevant throughout their lives. For example, in my Evolutionary Ecology course, each student researches one organism in depth throughout the semester, reading articles in the scientific literature and writing reviews of the studies that the class reads and discusses, while in Field Biology students research specific groups of organisms and create electronic field guides to these groups (see for examples). Similarly, in Conservation Biology each student researches a single ecological region, preparing three reports on the ecoregion's biodiversity, threats to that biodiversity, and responses to those threats — and after receiving extensive feedback on each report, the student creates a very effective 50-page conservation document on the ecoregion.

Teaching Awards:

Louis Dembitz Brandeis Prize for Excellence in Teaching. Brandeis University. Awarded to one faculty member annually, 2006.

Student Union Teaching Award, Brandeis University. Awarded to one faculty member each year based on a vote by the student body; 2004 & 2005.

Phi Beta Kappa Prize for Excellence in Teaching, Harvard University. The Phi Beta Kappa Prize was awarded to four faculty members in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, 1996.

Selected Publications

  • Perlman D.L. (2007) "Views of a Conservation Biologist" in Lasting Landscapes: Reflections on the Role of Conservation Science in Land Use Planning, eds. Kihslinger, R.L. and Wilkinson J. Environmental Law Institute, Washington D.C.
  • Perlman D. L. and Milder J. C. (2005) Practical Ecology for Planners, Developers, and Citizens. Island Press, Washington, D.C. This book covers ecology and conservation biology for land use professionals and engaged citizens in order to help them make better informed land use decisions and plans.
  • Wilson E.O. and Perlman D.L. (2000) Conserving Earth's Biodiversity. Island Press, Washington, D.C. Interactive CD-ROM on conservation biology and biodiversity used in undergraduate environmental science and conservation biology courses, high school biology classes, and by major conservation groups such as The Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, and Conservation International. I was the program's Project Director, Principal Photographer, and Co-Author.
  • Perlman D.L. and Adelson G. (1997) Biodiversity: Exploring Values and Priorities in Conservation. Blackwell Science, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts. This text focuses on the role that human values play in the setting of conservation priorities. It is used in conservation biology and environmental law courses.
  • Perlman D.L. and Paskowitz D. (1997) "Conservation and Biodiversity of Insects," in The Science of Entomology, 4th edition, eds. Romoser W.S. and Stoffolano J.G. William C. Brown Publishers, Dubuque, IA.
  • Cooper D.S. and Perlman D.L. (1997) "Habitat Conservation on Military Installations," Fremontia. 25, 3-8.
  • Choe J.C. and Perlman D.L. (1997) "Social Conflict and Cooperation among Founding Queens in Ants," in The Evolution of Social Behavior in Insects and Arachnids, eds. Choe J.C. and Crespi B.J. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, U.K.