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Dr. Paul Keddy
Photo by Marvin Moore

Dr. Paul Keddy has been a professor of ecology for 30 years, and has published over 100 scholarly papers and six books. He has been designated a Highly Cited Researcher (, and in 2007 was awarded two scholarly awards, the Merit Prize by the Society of Wetland Scientists, and the National Wetlands Award for Science Research by the Environmental Law Institute. Although he has worked on many types of plant communities and a broad array of ecological questions, the focus of his work has been upon the principles that organize plant communities, with particular emphasis upon wetlands.

Dr. Keddy comes from two generations of Nova Scotians who traveled to Europe to kill Germans, and then returned to Canada with British brides. He broke this sequence by traveling instead to Nova Scotia to complete a Ph.D. with the mathematical ecologist E.C. Pielou, and by marrying a botany student from Ontario. During this period he also helped found the Halifax Field Naturalists.  He then moved to Ontario to teach, first at the University of Guelph, and then at the University of Ottawa.  In addition to his teaching and research, he hiked and canoed through many parts of Ontario, and spent (too) much of his salary buying abandoned farm land on the Canadian shield in the Ottawa Valley. Here he built a home, and he and Cathy raised two sons. During this period of his life he carried out original research on wetlands in the Great Lakes, along the Ottawa River, and in Nova Scotia. He also did original work on plant zonation and competion, using large field experiments. He also served science as a member of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and served conservation as a member of the Canadian Council on Ecological Areas. After training many students, and writing several dozen reserach papers in scientific journals, he was promoted to full professor in 1989 at the age of 36.

In the early 1990s Dr. Keddy became seriously ill and spent several years on retreat, occasionally teaching at the University of Ottawa.   During this period, based upon his practice of Buddhist meditation, he wrote If I Should Die Before You Wake: Instructions on the Art of Life for his (then) infant sons. It was adapted for the general public in 1997 but is now out of print. He also prepared a guide to the natural history of Lanark County. In order to better share his knowledge of wetland habitats, he also wrote the first edition of his text book Wetland Ecology.

Dr. Keddy moved from Canada to Louisiana in 1999 to become the first holder of the Schlieder Endowed Chair for Environmental Studies. This chair provided resources that allowed him to continue research and teaching in spite of chronic illness. Louisiana is heaven on earth for biologists, with a subtropical climate, extensive cypress swamps, a rich amphibian and reptile fauna, and threatened pitcher plant savannas amidst longleaf pine forests. Here he worked on both the theory and practice of coastal restoration in Louisiana, as well as supervising research on species-rich pine savannas inland. He supervised the construction of the world's largest competition experiment on campus, and, at the field station, helped design Turtle Cove Experimental Marsh. He also assisting in writing habitat restoration reports for agencies including The Nature Conservancy, the Lake Ponchartrain Basin Foundation, and the state of Louisiana, and was a key contributor to the multiple lines of defense strategy for protecting New Orleans. He even wrote about the then novel idea that alligators play a key role in protecting coastal wetlands from grazing by herbivores. He survived hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and was bitten neither by snakes nor alligators, but roused the ire of the good ol’ boys by driving a Prius, speaking out on environmental issues, writing books, and suggesting that promotions should be based upon achievement rather than cronyism. Hence, by 2007, it seemed time to return to the forests of Canada, and metamorphose from a Full Professor into an Independent Scholar.

Keddy's first scientific book, Competition, was published by Chapman and Hall in 1989, while he was a professor at the University of Ottawa.  That book won the Lawson Medal (awarded by the Canadian Botanical Association) and the Gleason Prize (from the New York Botanical Garden ). A later book, Wetland Ecology: Principles and Conservation (Cambridge University Press, 2000) received the Merit Prize from the Society of Wetland Scientists.  With Dr. Evan Weiher he co-edited Ecological Assembly Rules: Perspectives, Advances, Retreats (Cambridge University Press, 1999). With Dr. Lauchlan Fraser he co-edited The World’s Largest Wetlands: Ecology and Conservation (Cambridge University Press, 2005).  He also has written a large and frequently overlooked second edition of Competition (Kluwer, 2001), “the book with the fighting zebras on the cover.”

Keddy’s plant ecology text book, a full decade in preparation, is an introduction to plant ecology from a global perspective.  Titled, Plant Ecology: Vegetation: Origins, Processes, Consequences (Cambridge University Press, 2017), it aims to combine the richness of plant natural history with the elegance of simple concepts and models. It is intended as a text for introductory plant ecology courses, as well as general reading for those seeking to deepen their appreciation and understanding of plant communities.

His guide to the natural history of Louisiana is also  available, as Water, Earth, Fire: Louisiana's Natural Heritage.  It was  written to encourage ecotourism, as well as to provide an inviting introduction to the state for students and citizens.

At this point in history there is a real need for scientific synthesis, and that has been Keddy's focus for the last decade.  This combines well with illness and many hours in the forest. One project has been a major revision to Wetland Ecology: Principles and Conservation for Cambridge Univerity Press. Another has been a guide to books on the history and fundametal concepts in ecology for Oxford Bibliographies Online. He has just completed a new edition of Plant Ecology.  He also has lectured abroad (Madrid, Granada, Lyon, Hildesheim) and locally (Almonte, Perth, Ottawa, Arnprior) on principles of science and their applications. Some of these talks have been recorded and can be viewed on line.

Dr. Keddy has now lived in the forest much longer than Thoreau, and he is catching up to Charles Darwin and St. Francis of Assisi.  He is available for occasional lectures and projects, as well as for correspondence, at

list of awards

Google Scholar

list of recent talks

some contributions to conservation 1974-2014