Pierre Dansereau

Botany

Ecologist who changed scientific understanding of natural and man-made ecosystems and their interactions

Dansereau is known internationally for his work on forest dynamics and plant ecology. He expanded scientific understanding of the roles of geology, geography and climatology on the environment. Perhaps his most important contribution was to bring together the "two solitudes" of human and natural sciences by applying natural ecological laws to man-made rural and urban environments.

Dansereau's career was strongly influenced by the great biologist and ecologist Frère Marie-Victorin, whom he met while studying agriculture at Institute Agricole d’Oka. Returning to North America after receiving his doctorate in Europe, Dansereau worked briefly at the University of Montréal, then moved on to the University of Michigan. While there, he published his immensely influential work on ecology "Biogeography; An Ecological Perspective" (1957; now out of print).

Dansereau also served as the assistant director of the New York Botanical Garden, where he began his pioneering works on environmental studies in an urban environment. Then, in the early 1970s, he was invited to investigate the environmental impact of construction of the Mirabel Airport north of Montréal. The resulting study is now considered to be a landmark contribution to environmental science.

Dansereau has written over 600 articles and books as well as a series of TV films on the environment, and has taught in 20 universities all over the world. He regularly voices his concerns regarding problems caused by current rates of consumption and social injustice. He is director of the Pierre Dansereau Laboratory for the Study of Ecosystems at the Université du Québec à Montréal.

Sources: Canadian Who’s Who 1993, The Canadian Encyclopedia 2000 ed., Government of Canada Heirloom Collection, Canada Science and Technology Museum; Photo: Canada Science and Engineering Hall of Fame.

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