Donald H. Owings

By April 13, 2011


Dec. 7, 1943 — April 9, 2011

After courageously battling prostate cancer for more than 24 years, Donald Henry Owings found final peace at home, surrounded by his family, on April 9, 2011. Don was born to Markely J. Owings and Erin White Owings in Atlanta, Ga., on Dec. 7, 1943. He is survived by his devoted wife, Sharon Calhoun Owings, his mother Erin, his son Ragon, daughter Anna, and grandchildren Isaiah and Elizabeth Heidrick. He leaves his brother Mark and sisters Beverly, Ellen and Lucy as well as numerous nieces and nephews.

After living in several cities in the South and in Pennsylvania as his father’s workplace changed, Don graduated from Bellaire High School in Houston, Texas. He earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Texas in Austin and a Ph.D. in psychology at the University of Washington. He joined the UC Davis Psychology Department faculty in 1971.

Don achieved an outstanding reputation for his contributions to animal behavior based on decades of ground-breaking empirical research and theory. Much of his work focused on understanding how ground squirrels cope with their snake predators, yielding the most extensive research on predator-prey interactions of any animal species studied. His theoretical insights into how natural selection shapes the evolution of behavior were unique and provided important lessons in the systematic study of natural history for the many students and colleagues who have been involved in his research.

His scientific stature is demonstrated by the extent and quality of his numerous publications, invited contributions and presentations at meetings of professional societies. Among the honors that he received were election to the status of Fellow of the Animal Behavior Society and appointment to the editorial boards of the leading journals in his field. He received the 2010 Animal Behavior Exemplar Award for major long-term contributions to the study of animal behavior.

As a superb educator and wise counselor, Don voluntarily assumed more than his share of advising, academic committee participation and administrative duties, chairing the Psychology Department and Graduate Group in Animal Behavior. He was an excellent mentor to his many graduate students, and he was awarded Outstanding Mentor of the Year in 1995 for mentoring numerous undergraduate students. Although extraordinarily dedicated to his work and profession, Don found time for travel and fun with his friends and family.

An affectionate memorial book compiled by Don’s colleagues, students and other friends can be found at http://dl.dropbox.com/u/670439/DonOwingsExemplarAwardTribute_smaller4.pdf.

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