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Scientist Profile – Bob Paine


Bob Paine was one of the greatest ecologists of all time. He experimented by removing different species from tidepools and his discoveries turned the field of ecology on its head.


♪ BOB: I moved to Seattle.

I'd barely been in the state of Washington.

I basically hadn't seen any of the Pacific Coast ecosystems.

I was totally naive.

But I knew what I wanted to do.

(wave rippling) (underwater sounds) (splashing sound) ♪ I discovered that if you remove the starfish, the system breaks down.

I realized all species don't have the same impact on the system they're in.

Some were important, others aren't.

(underwater sounds) ♪ MARY: Keystones hold a whole ecosystem together.

Even though they are a very little part of that structure.

JOHN: Bob Paine was the first one to show it.

When you remove the keystone species then the ecosystem and the biodiversity collapses.

And that applies to virtually all systems.

TONY: Bob Paine introduced me to the whole idea of keystones.

He found out the rules of how ecosystems work, and it was a seismic event in ecology.

BOB: This is an interesting idea.

What species matter and what don't.

Some fish make a big difference in lakes.

It turns out, on the plains of Africa, lions and leopards do make a difference.

If you remove them, and the system changes dramatically.

The message is clear, and it's been enormously important in how ecologists tend to view the world.

♪ Single species do matter.

♪ (underwater sound)


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