From the cow pats of Bristol to a pioneering evolutionary biologist
15 July 2011
Bristol graduate Professor Geoffrey Parker, famed as a pioneering thinker in the field of natural selection, is being honoured by the University today [15 July].
He soon realised that his passion was for natural history and switched to a Zoology degree, graduating with a first and winning the Rose Bracher prize for the top results in his year.
A PhD which looked at the behaviour of yellow dung flies near cow pats in fields around Bristol resulted in a string of papers which were considered remarkable in their originality and impact.
Professor Parker was the first to model the battle of the sexes and is most noted for introducing the concept of sperm competition in 1970.
He became a professor in 1989 on election to the Royal Society and in 1996 he became the Derby Chair of Zoology at Liverpool University, where he is now an Emeritus Professor.
In 2008, Professor Parker was awarded the Darwin Medal for his lifetime contribution to the foundations and development of behavioural ecology, in particular for understanding evolutionary adaptations and their consequences for natural populations.
He is now returning to the University to receive an honorary degree of Doctor of Science, awarded in recognition of outstanding achievement and distinction in a field or activity consonant with the University’s mission.
Professor Innes Cuthill, Head of the School of Biological Sciences and Professor of Behavioural Ecology, delivered the oration for Professor Parker’s honorary degree.
He paid tribute to the evolutionary biologist and said: “His intellectual journey began, side-by-side with the yellow dung fly, in Bristol.
“The journey would ultimately lead to the Derby chair in Zoology at Liverpool University, Fellowship of the Royal Society, the Darwin medal of the Royal Society and his current position, as research active as ever in retirement, as one of the greatest living theoreticians in evolutionary biology.”