2011 Distinguished Faculty Lecture

Galusha to give presentation in November

By: Becky St. Clair

Each year Walla Walla University staff, faculty, and students nominate faculty members for the Distinguished Faculty Lecture.  A committee reviews the nominations and a speaker is chosen to deliver a presentation the following November.  The 2011 Distinguished Faculty Lecturer is Joe Galusha, professor of biology.

Galusha has taught many courses during his career at Walla Walla University. His primary teaching interest is animal behavior, which stems from his education in the field of ethology: the study of animal behavior in the animal’s natural environment.

Born in Battle Creek, Mich., Galusha stayed close to home, attending Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Mich., for two years before transferring to Walla Walla College, where he received a biology degree in 1968. Returning to Andrews University, he earned his master’s degree in biology.

During his college years, Galusha became interested in pacifism and the theoretical aspects of hostility and war. He read extensively about aggression and how it is expressed in animals and primitive human societies.  During his senior summer at WWU’s Rosario Beach Marine Laboratory in 1967, he researched territorial aggression in a gull colony with Dr. John Stout. He has been studying gulls ever since.

While conducting research for his master’s degree using a robotic model of a gull, some of Galusha’s findings differed from the extensive research of Dr. Niko Tinbergen, a leading research professor at Oxford University in England. Galusha was invited to visit Oxford and try his methodology on Tinbergen’s gulls, which his findings proved to be correct. As a result, Tinbergen invited Galusha to be his final graduate student.  The following year Tinbergen was awarded the Nobel Prize for medicine and physiology, and part of the award money funded much of Galusha’s doctoral degree, which he completed in 1975.

Since 1979, Galusha’s gull research has been conducted on Protection Island near Sequim, Wash., just off the Olympic peninsula.  This location has the largest Glaucous-winged Gull colony in the contiguous 48 states. Galusha has made major advances in understanding social behavior in this colonial group.

“I have identified cues used by parents and young during the early weeks of a chick’s life,” he explains.  “Chicks learn their parents’ voices during the first few days of life, and the parents care for any chicks that behave as though they belong on the home territory.”

His research has also demonstrated how male and female behavior differs during different parts of the season, how living density affects the behavioral profile of residents, and how social facilitation occurs between parents, parents and young, and among sibling chicks.

Galusha’s research is considered a reference point by biological and behavioral scientists around the globe. Ideas from his research have been incorporated into his sociobiology course, which he has been developing and teaching at WWU for nearly 20 years.

“Finding many patterns of gull behavior that are similar to human behavior surprised me at first,” says Galusha.  “But over the years, considering reasons for these patterns and how they may function to the survival advantage of this species has provided long hours of stimulating and fruitful discussion with graduate students and colleagues alike. Doing just the right thing at just the right time makes all the difference in the world to a successful life history.”

Galusha will present his lecture on Nov. 13 at 7 p.m. in the Fine Arts Center Auditorium.  Admission is free.

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