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Academic Statement (Return to top)

Mark has been teaching in the Environmental Studies Program at Prescott College since 1988. His courses offer a strong foundation in the biological sciences and combine theory with an experiential emphasis. This is especially the case in his field courses in Mexico and in Costa Rica, but his on-campus courses also include numerous field trips and, in many instances, hands-on laboratory exercises. In all his teaching, he strives to weave together an understanding of ecological principles with evolutionary theory so that students can cultivate an appreciation for the origin and maintenance of biological diversity.



Background & Experience

Selected Publications (Return to top)

Clark, E. W., A. B. Fleishman, and M. F. Riegner. (mss. accepted). Diversity, abundance and nesting phenology of the wading birds of Bahia Kino, Sonora, Mexico. (mss. accepted for publication in Waterbirds; issue 38(3), Sept. 2015.)

Riegner, M. F. 2014. The phenomenology of betweenness: Encountering nature's wholeness. Environmental and Architectural Phenomenology 25(3): 28-32.

Riegner, M. F. 2013. Ancestor of the new archetypal biology: Goethe's dynamic typology as a model for contemporary evolutionary developmental biology. Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44: 735-744.

Riegner, M. F. 2008. Parallel evolution of plumage pattern and coloration in birds: Implications for defining avian morphospace. Condor 110: 599-614.

Riegner, M. 1998. Horns, hooves, spots, and stripes: Form and pattern in mammals. In Goethe's way of science: A phenomenology of nature. D. Seamon and A. Zajonc, Editors. SUNY Press, Albany, New York, pp. 177-212. [and translated into Norwegian in 2010 for The Ariadne Annual.]

Riegner, M., and J. Wilkes. 1998. Flowforms and the language of water. In Goethe's way of science: A phenomenology of nature. D. Seamon and A. Zajonc, Editors. SUNY Press, Albany, New York, pp. 233-252.

Riegner, M. 1993. Toward a holistic understanding of place: Reading a landscape through its flora and fauna. In Dwelling, seeing, and designing: Toward a phenomenological ecology. D. Seamon, Editor. SUNY Press, Albany, New York, pp. 181-215.

Fleischner, T., and M. Riegner. 1993. Winter birds of Bahia Kino, central Gulf of California coast, Sonora, Mexico. Ecologica 3 (1): 29-34.              

Riegner, M., and L. Niemeyer (photographer). 1993. Long-legged wading birds of the North American wetlands. Stackpole Books, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Riegner, M. 1992. Look-alike birds from distant lands: A consideration of similarities in unrelated birds. Birder's World 6(3): 17-21.

Presentations (Return to top)

"Behavior and Ecology of Herons Around the World;" Prescott Audubon Society, Prescott, Arizona; March 2015.

"Feathers and Beaks, Bars and Streaks: Form and Pattern in Birds;" Bird Conservation Society of Thailand, Bangkok, Thailand; June 2014.

"Goethe's Dynamic Vision in Science and Art;" Marshall-LeKae Art Gallery, Scottsdale, Arizona; April 2014. 

“Mammals of the Central Arizona Highlands;” Highlands Center for Natural History, Prescott, Arizona; February 2014.

"Correlated Evolution of Color Pattern and Morphology in Birds and in Mammals;" Environmental Studies Colloquium Series, Prescott College; November 2010.

"Occurrence of Nonfeathered Avian Integumentary Outgrowths: Evidence for Parallel Evolution;" Poster presentation, American Ornithologists' Union, San Diego, CA; February 2010. 

"Herons of the Salton Sea;" Presentation at the Salton Sea International Birding Festival, Imperial, CA; February 2010.

"Parallel Evolution of Plumage Pattern and Coloration in Birds: Implications for Defining Avian Morphospace;" Scientific session, American Ornithologists' Union, University of Wyoming, Laramie; August 2007.

“Plumage Pattern and Coloration as Correlates of Avian Morphology;” Scientific session, American Ornithologists’ Union, UC Santa Barbara; August 2005.

Research (Return to top)

Mark's current research focuses on questions concerning the diversity of avian plumage patterns. Why do similar plumage patterns repeatedly evolve in distantly related lineages while strikingly different plumage configurations may be exhibited in closely related taxa? Why do some species have streaks while others have bars? Is there a relationship between plumage pattern and morphology? Accordingly, he has identified an empirically derived plumage pattern trajectory that covaries with body size and morphology across the Class Aves (see Riegner, 2008). Furthermore, the trajectory is recursive at various taxonomic levels, such as within genera and within families, and thus serves as an indicator of parallel evolution. The recursive nature of the trajectory, in which morphological and chromatic elements recur in modified configurations, has perhaps contributed to an underestimate of parallel evolution in birds.

In addition, Mark is interested in exploring dynamic ways of thinking about understanding the origin, diversity, constraints, and evolution of biological form.  This has led him to research key figures in the history and philosophy of the biological sciences (see Riegner, 2013). He also continues field research on the ecology of wading birds (manuscript currently under review), and is a member of the Heron Specialist Group of IUCN.

Awards, Grants, & Honors (Return to top)

2011 Harry R. Painton Award of the Cooper Ornithological Society, for his paper “Parallel evolution of plumage pattern and coloration in birds: implications for defining avian morphospace” selected as the best paper published in The Condor over the last four years.

Education (Return to top)

Ph.D., Ecology and Evolution, State University of New York at Stony Brook, 1983

B.S., Biology, State University of New York College at Brockport, 1975, cum laude

Expertise (Return to top)

Courses Mark currently teaches at Prescott College:

Animal Biology

Behavior and Conservation of Mammals

Coastal Ecology of the Gulf of California (field)

Form and Pattern in Nature

Insect Ecology (part field)

Organic Evolution

Tropical Biology: The Natural History of Costa Rica (field)


Academic Involvement at Prescott College (Return to top)


Areas of Study


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Prescott College Events

Aug 19
All Day – Limited Residency Undergraduate Program Fall 2015 Orientation
Aug 20
All Day – Limited Residency Undergraduate Program Fall 2015 Orientation
Dec 11
04:00 PM – Resident Undergraduate Programs Baccalaureate

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