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 ( In 2007 he was awarded the Merit Prize by the Society of Wetland Scientists, and the National Wetlands Award for Science Research by the Environmental Law Institute. In 2017 he also received the Lifetime Achievement Award from SWS. 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 competition, 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 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. In 2018 it was updated and published by Sumeru Press with a new subtitle, A Father’s Advice on the Art of Living. During this same period Dr. Keddy 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.

List of Awards

2018 Meritorious Service Medal of Canada
2017 Lifetime Achievement Award, Society of Wetland Scientists
2015 W.E. Saunders Award, Ontario Nature
2015 Conservation Award, Ottawa Field-Naturalists (with Cathy Keddy)
2009 Award of Excellence—Heritage and Ecology, Lanark County
2008 Champion for Nature Award, Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
2007 National Wetlands Award for Science Research, Environmental Law Institute, DC
2006 Lifetime membership, Society of Wetland Scientists
2006 Merit Award, Society of Wetland Scientists
2005 Team Achievement Award for Louisiana Ecosystem Restoration Study, USACE
2002 Highly Cited Researcher, Institute for Scientific Information (in top 0.5 of 1% of cited scientists in Ecology/Environment worldwide)
1999 Schlieder Endowed Chair for Environmental Studies, University of Louisiana
1998 Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada
1992 Lawson Medal, Canadian Botanical Association
1992 Canadian Council on Ecological Areas
1991 Gleason Prize, New York Botanical Garden

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 University Press. Another has been a guide to books on the history and fundamental 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 online.

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.

Some contributions to conservation

  1. Keddy Nature Sanctuary: Over forty years sequentially purchased a square mile of forest and provincially significant wetland in Lanark County. In 2014 signed a conservation agreement and donated the development rights to the Mississippi Madawaska Land Trust, creating the second largest nature reserve in their portfolio. (1975 – 2014)
  2. Wetland Ecology: Principles and Conservation: Prepared a new edition of this book to further emphasize how a few simple scientific principles can guide enlightened conservation activities. (2008-2010)
  3. Louisiana natural and environmental history guide: Prepared and published a 229-page book on the natural and environmental history of Louisiana (Water, Earth, Fire: Louisiana’s Natural Heritage, including 85 illustrations and 118 references) to facilitate the development of a conservation ethic. A conservation vision is proposed for the state that identifies 12 high priority areas with essential conservation activities for each. This book was written as a guide for residents and visitors to support the developing state ecotourism industry and to provide a reference for teachers of biology, environmental studies, ecology, and history. (2008)
  4. Multiple Lines of Defense for New Orleans: Volunteered for several years as a team member designing an environmentally sustainable plan to protect New Orleans from future hurricanes. (2004-2007)
  5. Lake Pontchartrain Basin Management Plan: Member of a team of invited environmental experts who met regularly in New Orleans to write the new Comprehensive Habitat Management Plan for the Lake Pontchartrain Basin to guide the activities of the basin foundation for the coming decades. The CHMP includes quantitative restoration targets for both wetland and terrestrial ecosystems. (2004-2007)
  6. The Nature Conservancy: Participated in workshops to identify conservation focal targets important for maintaining the health and ecological integrity of the Lake Pontchartrain estuary, and strategies to abate stress to the system. The resulting Conservation Area Plan for the Lake Pontchartrain Estuary will guide the future activities of The Nature Conservancy and other state agencies. (2003-2004)
  7. Worlds Largest Wetlands: Organized an international symposium on the World’s Largest Wetlands at the Millennium Wetland Event in Quebec City in 2000. Co-edited The World’s Largest Wetlands: Ecology and Conservation (Cambridge University Press, 2005). (1996-2005)
  8. Lanark County natural environment guide: Prepared a 73-page guide to the natural history of Lanark County, Ontario including 19 maps of ecological features (Earth, Water, Fire: An Ecological Profile of Lanark County). Self-published and locally distributed by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists and regional bookstores. (1999-2008)
  9. Ecological reserve establishment: Did the field work to find the richest coastal plain wetland in Canada, raised the money to purchase it, and lobbied (successfully) to have it designated as the first ecological reserve in Nova Scotia as the Tusket River Nature Reserve. (1980-1990)
  10. Atlantic Coastal Plain flora ecology and conservation: Carried out more than a dozen scientific studies on the rare Atlantic Coastal Plain plants of Georgian Bay and Nova Scotia. Provided the scientific research to show that infertile shorelines with naturally fluctuating water levels are essential habitat. Edited a special issue of Biological Conservation (1994, Volume 68, Issue 3) on the ecology and distribution of these species in North America. Protected areas in Ontario now include Axe Lake and Matchedash Lake. Nova Scotia now has multiple protected areas and a dedicated web site to the conservation management of these species. (1980-2005)
  11. Canadian Council on Ecological Areas: Served as Coordinator of the Scientific Committee of CCEA for six years. Wrote a report on the important relationships between science and protected areas (link to external PDF). (1984-1990)
  12. Founding President of Halifax Field Naturalists: Established and became the first president of the Halifax Field Naturalists, the first natural history society in Nova Scotia, Canada. It celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2006 with over 100 members. (1976)
  13. Wreck Cove Hydroelectric Project. Coordinated provincial opposition to creating a hydroelectric reservoir within the boundaries of Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Co-wrote a report summarizing the negative environmental impacts of the project. (1975)