Ecological succession Notes

Teachers' notes - Professor Ralph Slatyer (1929–2012), ecologist
October 22, 2014 – 04:40 pm
Profesor Ralph Slatyer


Professor Ralph Slatyer was interviewed in 1993 for the Interviews with Australian scientists series. By viewing the interviews in this series, or reading the transcripts and extracts, your students can begin to appreciate Australia's contribution to the growth of scientific knowledge.

The following summary of Slatyer's career sets the context for the extract chosen for these teachers notes. The extract discusses his studies into ecological succession in ecosystems where there has been a disturbance, either natural or human-induced. Use the focus questions that accompany the extract to promote discussion among your students.

Summary of career

Ralph Slatyer was born in Melbourne in 1929. He was educated at the University of Western Australia where he received a BSc in 1951, an MSc in 1955 and a DSc in 1960. His studies were in agriculture, particularly in looking at the factors linking plant and water relationships to climatology.

In 1951 he began work as a research scientist with the CSIRO in what became the Division of Land Research. He was an ecoclimatologist, trying to predict the length of the growing season for introduced crops and pastures using climatic information, soil characteristics and other physical factors. He was part of a team that investigated the potential for agriculture in the north of Australia. From 1966-1967 he was the Associate Chief of the Division.

In 1967 Slatyer became the Foundation Professor in Environmental Biology in the Research School of Biological Sciences (RSBS) at the Australian National University (ANU). His research at this time included how plants differ from each other in photosynthesis and transpiration rates. It was here that he began to look at ecological succession in disturbed ecosystems. Also while at the ANU he served as the Director of RSBS (1984-89). On his retirement in 1993 he became Distinguished Scholar in Residence at RSBS.

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