Henry J. Oosting Memorial Lecture

The Oosting Lecture is an annual presentation by distinguished scholars with an international reputation in the field of Ecology.

The endowed lecture honors the preeminent plant ecologist, Henry J. Oosting, and is presented by the University Program in Ecology, the Nicholas School of the Environment, and the Department of Biology.

The 49th Annual Henry J. Oosting Memorial Lecture in Ecology

“Ancient Herders Enriched and Restructured Africa Grasslands”


James W. & Jean L. Davis Professor in Arts & Sciences Department of Anthropology, Washington University in St. Louis

Thursday, March 24, 2022  |  4:00 P.M. – 5:00 P.M.

Room 4233 French Family Science Center & Virtually via Zoom


Fiona Marshall’s research focuses on African archaeology, animal domestication, and pastoralism. Her investigation of early food production, climatic shifts, and movement of early herders have positioned her as an international expert on human influences on African savannas and on animal domestication. She is currently conducting research on how animals with less social behavior donkeys and cats became domesticated. Long-term fieldwork in Kenya has revealed that ancient mobile herders had positive influences on African savannas through creation of high nutrient settlement patches that persist to this day. Data on the role of milk and meat in Neolithic pastoral diets provide perspectives on lactase persistence. Dietary variability was a theme of Marshall’s ethnoarchaeological research among former Okiek hunters and honey collectors in Kenya. Her long-term collaborative research on the domestication of the donkey includes behavioral research on dibokali or E. africanus, the wild ancestor of the donkey, ethnoarchaeological research on pastoral women’s donkey management, and morphometric and genetic components. Recent international research examines the role of donkeys in transport and sports in Tang China. Marshall’s projects and those of her graduate students contribute to understanding human-animal relations, interactions among ancient pastoral and hunter-gatherer societies, the history and resilience of livestock and herding ways of life, and the role of people in the long-term creation and maintenance of African landscapes.

Previous Oosting Lectures have been delivered by:

2020: Steward Pickett

2019: Nancy B. Grimm

2018: Rick Ostfeld

2017: Jill Banfield

2016: Ruth Defries

2015: John Terborgh

2013: Norm Christensen

2012:  Margaret Palmer

2011: Chris Field

2009: Thomas E. Lovejoy

2008: William H. Schlesinger

2007: Pamela Matson

2006: Monica Turner

2005: Stuart Fisher

2004: F Stuart Chapin

2003: Stephen R. Carpenter

2002: Paul R. Ehrlich

2001: Peter M. Vitousek

2000: James R. Ehleringer

1999: G. David Tilman

1998: Boyd R. Strain

1997: Jerry M. Melillo

1996: F. Ian Woodward

1995: Walter C. Oechel

1994: Thompson Webb III

1993: Fakhri Bazzaz

1992: Jane Lubchenco

1991: Martyn Caldwell

1990: Berrien Moore III

1989: Anthony D. Bradshaw

1988: Edward S. Deevey

1987: Simon A. Levin

1986: Park S. Nobel

1985: Gene Likens

1984: Eville Gorham

1983: John L. Harper

1982: Jerry F. Franklin

1981: William A. Reiners

1980: Phillip L. Johnson

1979: Larry L. Tieszen

1978: Hal A. Mooney

1977: William A. Niering

1976: Robert P. McIntosh

1975: Larry C. Bliss

1974: F. Herbert Bormann

1973: George M. Woodwell

1972: Frank B. Golley

1971: Murray F. Buell

Dr. Henry J. Oosting

Henry John Oosting (1903-1968) initiated the renowned program in plant ecology in Duke University’s Botany Department in 1932. During his 36 years on the faculty, 35 students received their PhD degrees under his guidance. Many of his students and their students in turn have gone on to develop successful plant ecology programs around the world.

Oosting’s own research was principally concerned with the structure and distribution of vegetation and with successional dynamics following disturbance of forested lands in North Carolina. He wrote a classic ecology text on the study of plant communities, co-authored a well-used spring flora of the piedmont of North Carolina, and served the Ecological Society of America in many capacities including the presidency. A portion of Duke Forest has been designated as the Henry J. Oosting Natural Area, creating a living memorial to Henry Oosting.

We are forever grateful for his leadership in the establishment of plant ecology as a science and for the exceptional program he and his students developed here at Duke University. We also acknowledge the establishment of this memorial lecture series by Mrs. Cornelia Oosting, and we thank his many friends and students for contributions to its continuation.

Permanent link to this article: https://ecology.duke.edu/henry-j-oosting-memorial-lecture/