James D. Thomson

""Professor, Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Faculty of Arts & Science

President's Teaching Award 2016


James D. Thomson (A.B., University of Chicago, 1972; M.S. (1975) and Ph.D. (1978 University of Wisconsin-Madison) is a Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Toronto and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

Following postdoctoral work at the University of Toronto (1979-1980), he was a faculty member of Department of Ecology and Evolution at SUNY-Stony Brook at Stony Brook from 1998-2000, serving as department Chair from 1997-1999. He moved to Toronto in 2000, chairing the Department of Zoology from 2000-2005. He also held an appointment in the Department of Botany.

His research interests include community ecology, evolutionary ecology, and behavioral ecology, mostly centered around plant-pollinator relationships. A theme that unifies much of this work has three components: How do flower-visiting animals perceive, sample, and learn about floral resources? How do these processes translate into foraging choices and patterns? How do those patterns affect pollen flow, reproductive success, allocation processes, and the evolution of floral characters in plants? Recent research programs include the development and testing of pollen presentation theory in the context of a phylogenetic analysis of pollination ecology and floral evolution in the large genus Penstemon, plus a range of work on bumble bees, including cognitive ecology and conservation biology. Recently, he has concentrated on long-term demographic studies of wild lilies in subalpine habitats in Colorado.

His teaching at U of T includes the very large first-year biology course BIO120, for which he shares lecturing duties with Professor Spencer Barrett (FRS, FRSC). An Editor of the Quarterly Review of Biology, he has also been an National Science Foundation Mid-Career Fellow, a Council member for the Society for the Study of Evolution, an editor for the Ecological Society of America, and President of the American Society of Naturalists. He previously received awards for excellence in teaching (SUNY President’s and Chancellor’s Awards in 2000, and U of T Arts and Science Dean’s Award in 2012). He has advised 23 doctoral and eight master’s students.