Ian Baldwin’s interests in biology, chemistry and molecular biology were nucleated by inspiring mentors at the Boy’s Latin School (Frank Collins), Dartmouth College (Jack Schultz), and Cornell University (Thomas Eisner, Jerrold Meinwald, Paul Feeny) and nurtured by many supportive colleagues during his pre- and post-tenure time at the State University of New York, Buffalo. In 1996, he was blessed with the opportunity to start the Max-Planck-Institute for Chemical Ecology, Jena, Germany with 3 outstanding colleagues (Boland, Gershenzon and Mitchell-Olds), and in 2002, with colleagues from the Friedrich Schiller University, the International Max-Planck Research School. With dedicated colleagues in his Department of Molecular Ecology, he is training a new generation of whole-organismic biologists (genome-enabled field biologists) with 42 fledged doctoral students to date. Many blue-collar jobs (as fish cleaner, logger, mechanic, truck driver) provided useful skills that provided balance to equally important cultural and analytical skills from an academic upbringing in Baltimore, by two medieval history professors, John Baldwin and Jenny Jochens. These skills are regularly refreshed during his annual stays at the field station. Maude, Nell and Justin (children with Emily Wheeler, an editor who taught him the art of writing) enrich his life as scientists and physicians.

Research Interests

Baldwin is distinguished by having integrated the advances in molecular biology into the study of ecological interactions to catalyze a change in how ecologists examine ecological interactions and falsify hypotheses and by having integrated the whole-organismic expertise of ecologists into the study of gene function. In this research program, Baldwin and colleagues regularly use a nature preserve in the Great Basin Desert to conduct experiments with genetically modified Nicotiana attenuata plants in the plant's native environment to understand the genes that matter for survival in the rough and tumble of nature. The genetic transformations, and the molecular biological and chemical characterizations of the plants occurs at the Max-Planck Institute in Jena, while the field releases are conducted at the Lytle Ranch Preserve, which is owned and operated by the Brigham Young University. The research program has uncovered how plants resist (via direct and direct defenses), tolerate (by changing source-sink relationships) and escape (by changing pollinator systems) attack from herbivores, responses which are all elicited by the plant's perception of insect-specific elicitors introduced into wounds while feeding, in addition to how plants optimize pollination services, establish opportunistic mutualisms with soil bacteria and use their circadian clock to anticipate important ecological events.

Membership Type


Election Year


Primary Section

Section 25: Plant Biology

Secondary Section

Section 27: Evolutionary Biology