colby-sawyer faculty

Benjamin B. Steele

Professor, Chair, Natural Sciences
(603) 526-3677 |

Joined the faculty in 1988. Received B.S. from Harvard, M.S. from Utah State and Ph.D. from Dartmouth Collge. Teaching interests include ecology, evolution, animal behavior and environmental studies. Research interests are in bird behavior and population studies, particularly related to migrating birds and sea ducks. Professor Steele is also a director of the New England Institute for Landscape Ecology, which sponsors research projects in New England and Alaska.

I teach courses in ecology, animal behavior, evolution, conservation biology, Environmental Studies, and other sciences. In my classes, I focus on the natural environment around New London as much as possible. I am also very involved in curriculum development, including quantitative literacy liberal education.

I continue to do research on bird conservation. Since my most recent sabbatical, I have continued studying the Common Eider in Finland. This fascinating bird has interesting social behaviors, including joint care of young, but also suffers from declining populations. I plan to continue this work, accompanied by students when possible. I also have recently been involved in the clean-up of a toxic chemical that has killed thousands of ducks in Alaska. Students have accompanied me on that study as well. See Research

Areas of Expertise

  • Animal Behavior
  • Conservation Biology
  • Ecology
  • Environmental studies
  • Evolution

Courses Recently Taught

  • Interactions in Ecology

  • Evolution and Diversity

  • Animal Behavior

  • Terrestrial Ecology

  • Conservation Biology

  • Mountains: In this honors course we investigated the physiological, ethical, environmental, social, and cultural issues raised by climbing big mountains, using Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air as a starting point.

  • Where Are We? Finding our Place in Space and Time

  • Climate Change

Recent Publications

  • Steele, B. B., A. Lehikoinen, M. Őst, and M. Kilpi. 2007. The cost of mate guarding in the Common Eider. Ornis Gennica 84:49-56.

  • Steele, B. and S. Kılıç-Bahi. 2008. Quantitative Literacy Across the Curriculum: A Case Study. Numeracy 1 (2).

  • Öst, M., M Wickman, E. Matulionis, and B. Steele. 2008. Habitat-specific clutch size and cost of incubation in eiders reconsidered. Oecologia in press.

  • Steele, B. 2006. Introducing Endangered Birds to Ulva Island, NZ: Modeling Exponential and Logistic Growth of the Yellowhead Population – A teaching module for Spreadsheets Across the Curriculum. Published at The Science Education Resource Center at Carleton College.


  • Ph.D., Dartmouth College
  • M.S., Utah State University
  • B.A., Harvard University