colby-sawyer faculty

Benjamin B. Steele

Professor, 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 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 First-Year Seminar 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
  • Research Design
  • Marine Communities
  • Sailing Alone Around the World - an interdisciplinary honors course

Recent Publications

  • Seltmann, M. W., K. Jaatinen, B. Steele & Markus Őst. 2013. Boldness and Stress Responsiveness as Drivers of Nest-Site Selection in a Ground-Nesting Bird. Ethology. 119 1-13. DOI: 10.1111/eth. 12181.
  • Steele, B. and S. Kılıç-Bahi. 2010. Quantitative Literacy: Does It Work? Evaluation of Student Outcomes at Colby-Sawyer College. Numeracy. Volume 3, Issue 2, 2010, Article 3.
  • Steele, B., N. Baer, and C. Kellogg. 2009. A new ecology text for introductory courses. Book review of C. Krebs. 2008. The Ecological World View. Univ. California Press, Berkeley. Ecology 90: 573-574.
  • Őst, M. and B. Steele. 2009. Age-specific nest site preference and success in female eiders. Oecologia. 162: 59-59. DOI: 10.1007/s00442-009-1444-4.
  • Őst, M., M. Wickman, E. Matulionis, and B. Steele. 2008. Habitat-specific clutch size and cost of incubation in eiders reconsidered. Oecologia DOI: 10.1007/s00442-008-1139-2.
  • Steele, B. and S. Kılıç-Bahi. 2008. Quantitative Literacy Across the Curriculum: A Case Study. Numeracy. 1(2).


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