Dr. David W. Tonkyn

Population ecology

Clemson University

David Tonkyn

Exhilaration then humility, as we conquered what clearly was the lowest peak in the Canadian Rockies....



One day the old desire entered my head to visit far countries

and strange people, to voyage among the isles and curiously regard things hitherto unknown to me” 


     - Sinbad the Sailor in “The Thousand and One Nights”.


"... where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet"


     - Frederich Buechner in "Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC"





          Erdos number = 3, but May number = 1!


          Off-road, but rarely gets lost in the woods


          Not a Boy Scout, though people frequently assume so 


          Long-time practitioner and instructor in Korean Hapkido


          Founding advisor to Clemson Tigers for Tigers and to

          the National Tigers for Tigers Coalition




I was fortunate to spend many childhood summers in western Montana, exploring and developing a love for wild nature.  As an undergraduate at Princeton University, I considered majoring in biology, mathematics or philosophy and was fortunate, on taking Dr. Henry Horn's course in population biology, to find a discipline that seemed to contain all three.  I received all my degrees in biology from Princeton, all with a concentration in ecology.  After a post-doc at the University of Minnesota, I joined the Department of Biological Sciences at Clemson University.  Here I offer lecture courses on ecology, modeling and conservation biology, and travel courses on Indian Biodiversity and Rocky Mountain Field Ecology.  For the past few years, I led a student team that formed the National Tigers for Tigers Coalition of student groups from across the country, and hosted its first Annual Summit.


My career in ecology has spanned paradigm shifts from the "balance of nature" to a non-equilibrium world, from theoretical analyses of abstract populations to applied studies of real ones, and from field studies in pristine habitats to the deliberate study of landscapes altered by Man.  My own work has embraced most of these changes, with a common thread being the application of quantitative methods to ecological problems.  I have conducted fieldwork on plant-insect interactions in New Jersey old fields, Minnesota prairies, Nevada sagebrush and Montana alpine meadows.  I have collaborated on experimental studies on the spread of insects, of genetically modified bacteria, and of crop genes.  And I have worked on models of dispersal, survival, sampling, dynamics, and evolution.  


In recent years I have focused on quantitative problems in conservation biology, returning full circle to the issues that sparked my interest in biology.  For example, I now work on optimization methods to preserve genetic diversity in small populations and species diversity in landscapes. These problems are related because they can be attacked by similar methods, and because efforts to preserve habitats and their most endangered inhabitants depend upon one another for success.  My graduate students work on problems ranging from threatened birds and butterflies to endangered elephants and tigers.


I can be reached at tdavid@clemson.edu or +1 864 656-3588.


A good rule to live by.....

One of four extended field trips into Russia's Transbaikal region, an amazing place reminiscent of the US Rockies.