In Memoriam: Gary W. Barrett, 1940-2022

Contact: Beth Gavrilles,

portrait of Gary Barrett

Gary W. Barrett, Odum Chair emeritus and former director of the University of Georgia Institute of Ecology, passed away at his home in Athens, Georgia, on April 10, 2022. He was 82.

“Gary made extraordinary contributions to ecology through his leadership, research, and mentorship of students,” said Sonia Altizer, Georgia Athletic Association Professor and interim dean of the Odum School of Ecology. “Notably, Gary worked with several dozen M.S. and undergraduate students as part of his small mammal research program at the HorseShoe Bend ecological field station. As a PhD student himself of the late Eugene P. Odum, former director of the Institute of Ecology at UGA, and holder of the Eugene P. Odum Chair in Ecology, Gary carried on Odum’s legacy and commitment to the field of ecology.” 

Gary W. Barrett received his bachelor’s degree in biology cum laude from Oakland City University in 1961 and his master’s degree in biology from Marquette University in 1963. In 1967 he was awarded his doctorate in zoology (the precursor to ecology), under the mentorship of Eugene P. Odum, with whom he maintained a long friendship and fruitful academic partnership.

After graduation, Dr. Barrett taught biology at Drake University before moving to Miami University of Ohio, where he attained the rank of Distinguished Professor. During his time there, Dr. Barrett served as acting director and deputy director for research of the Institute of Environmental Sciences, coordinator of environmental education, and co-director of the Ecology Research Center.

Dr. Barrett returned to Athens in 1994 as the Eugene P. Odum Chair in Ecology, a position he held until his retirement in 2014, and served as the director of the Institute of Ecology from 1994-1996.

His many career accomplishments include serving as director of the National Science Foundation Ecology Program, chair of the Applied Ecology Section of the Ecological Society of America, president of U.S. Regional Association of the International Association for Landscape Ecology (US-IALE, now IALE-North America), and president of the American Institute of Biological Sciences.

Dr. Barrett was the author of nearly 200 peer-reviewed publications—many with his students as co-authors—and nine books, including the fifth edition of Fundamentals of Ecology, with Eugene P. Odum.

He received many honors for his research and service, including the US-IALE Distinguished Landscape Ecologist Award in 2001, a Presidential Citation from AIBS in recognition of leadership and contributions to the biological sciences in 2000, and was named Miami University Sigma Xi Researcher of the Year in 1986. He was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1990.

Dr. Barrett received numerous awards for teaching and mentoring students, including the Most Outstanding and Effective Teaching Award from Miami University and the Excellence in Undergraduate Research Mentoring Award from the University of Georgia. He was also the recipient of the 2009 Ecology Purple Heart Award, given by Odum School of Ecology Graduate Students to recognize exceptional dedication to students.

“I’m very grateful to Dr. Gary Barrett for the mentorship and support he provided to me as a master’s student in his lab,” wrote Laura Skelton, MS ’02, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Institute of Ecology. “One thing I especially remember about Dr. Barrett is his dedication to supporting undergraduate students, especially by involving them in his small mammal population research at HorseShoe Bend. He gave many undergraduate students the opportunity to not only assist with research, but to even lead their own studies and get them published.”

Dr. Barrett leaves his wife of 53 years, Terry Lynn Barrett; brother Max Alvin Barrett and brother-in-law Jack Lee; as well as grandchildren, great grandchildren, and nieces. He was predeceased by his parents, Ida Eilene and Perlie Wallace Barrett, and daughter Tiffany Lynn.

Donations in Dr. Barrett’s memory may be made to the Gary W. Barrett Endowed Scholarship, Miami University, 926 Chestnut Lane, Oxford, OH 45056; the Gary W. Barrett Endowment Scholarship, Oakland City University, 138 North Lucretia Street, Oakland City, IN 47660; or the Tiffany Lynn Barrett Endowed Scholarship, Oxford Community Foundation, 22 High Street, Oxford, OH 45056.

More information on Dr. Barrett’s life and accomplishments is provided in this obituary from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.