I am a community ecologist studying the processes that influence the number of species that coexist in natural systems. I use insect communities as model systems because they are easy to manipulate and control in both laboratory and field experiments. Over the past 10 years, I have focused on relationships between body size and competitive ability in dragonfly communities, and have shown that dragonfly species use perches of different heights as a consequence of a competitive hierarchy; large species use tall perches and, through competitive interactions, relegate smaller species to progressively shorter perches. I have published over 30 article in peer-reviewed journals, and I am particularly proud of the many Furman students who have coauthored  papers with me. I have led many of Furman's study away programs to Costa Rica (Tropical Ecology) and Galapagos (Darwin and the Galapagos). In addition, I am the faculty supervisor of the Furman Forest initiative with the Nature Conservancy, and the Lake Restoration project.​

Name Title Description


Seminar in Biology

Presentations of current topics in biology by students, faculty, and visiting scientists. Emphasis is on effective oral communication and critical examination of scientific information and ideas.


Biology and the Environment

The basic principles common to living organisms, with emphasis on environmental biology. Designed for non-science majors. Topics include: ecology, evolution, biodiversity, and environmental issues, plus a synopsis of cellular biology, genetics, and physiology.


Foundations of Biology

Introduction to the unifying concepts of biology. Topics include: cell structure and function, metabolism, genetics, evolution, and the diversity of life. Laboratories emphasize an investigative approach. Designed for science majors.



Introduction to the study of inheritance. Topics include: transmission of genes in cellular and organismal reproduction, structure and arrangement of genetic material in the cell, control and function of genes, and population genetics. Equal emphasis given to inheritance patterns and molecular genetics. Laboratories include testing the genetics of Drosophila and other organisms, and basic molecular techniques.


Research and Analysis

Introduction to purposes and methods of scientific inquiry. Topics include: philosophy of science, research design, use of biological literature sources, fundamental laboratory techniques, statistical analysis, and survey of careers in biology. Laboratory includes designing, performing, and reporting on research projects.


Insect Diversity

Field-based survey of the major groups of insects. Lecture will focus on the evolutionary history, ecology, and taxonomy of insects. The primary component will be collection, identification, and preservation of insect specimens, contributing to the all taxa biological surveys" on campus and at the Furman Forest."



The interactions between organisms and their environments, and the consequences of these interactions for population dynamics, community structure, and the flow of energy and matter through ecosystems. Also, consideration of environmental issues and conservation. Laboratories include local field work, experiments, and possibly one or two overnight/weekend field trips.


Fld Stds in Tropical Ecology

Students visit a variety of habitats including tropical rain forests, tropical dry forests, and cloud forests in Costa Rica. Intensive study of natural history will be combined with original ecological investigations and preparation of research papers.


Popultn Genetics & Evolution

Evolutionary mechanisms that change the genetic structure of populations. Patterns of evolutionary change documented by the fossil record, biogeography, comparative anatomy and genetic similarity. Labs include experiments in Drosophila evolution, computer simulations, and at least one field trip (fossils).


To Walk the Land

Through weekly hikes, the goal of this seminar is that you would come to know and enjoy the land, your local upstate environment, in a deeper way; to appreciate its natural and cultural history; to better understand our connection to and dependence on the land; and to communicate this new understanding effectively. This seminar is physically demanding and time consuming because of one six-hour afternoon hike and one two-hour discussion meeting per week.


Competition in Nature & Cltr

The Super Bowl. Democrats vs. Republicans. Ford vs. Chevy. Competition permeates our culture, but is competition fundamental to how humans and all organisms interact? Examining the nature and importance of competitive and cooperative interactions in nature and society.



Through field trips, readings, videos, and writing assignments, students will learn about the breath and importance of life's diversity and will meet some of the unique and 'alien' species that share our world. Students will maintain a writer's journal, complete three papers (with revisions), and have an exam on lecture material. This seminar focuses on broader patterns, ecological relationships, and specific 'biographies' of interesting species.

I am continually fascinated, inspired, awed, and renewed when I observe and study living things. In many ways, my teaching is a way to express my excitement and love for life, and to try and inspire this interest in my students. I believe in information-rich, high content, high complexity courses; I believe that is the only way to convey the extraordinary richness and complexity of nature to students. And yet, in all that complexity, the order and understanding that the scientific study of nature has revealed becomes all the more remarkable. Through science--and science alone--we examine the bias of our senses and reject the obvious in favor of insight: the earth is not flat, the sun does not orbit the earth, matter is not 'solid', and species are not separately created. I am excited to be a part of this process of inquiry, and my philosophy is to invite students to join me and my colleagues in this endeavor.

*Denotes undergraduate coauthor

  • Worthen, W. B., and P.H. Morrow*.2016. Perch selection by three ooccurring Species of Celithemis (Odonata: Libellulidae): Testing for a competitive hierarchy among similar species. Psyche, vol. 2016, Article ID 9028105. doi:10.1155/2016/9028105
  • Worthen, W. B., and C. C. Phillips*. 2014. Are community patterns in flight height driven by antagonistic interactions? International Journal of Odonatology 17:7-26.
  • Worthen, W.B., and D. Merriman*. 2012. Relationships between carabid beetle communities and forest stand parameters: Taxon congruence or habitat association? Southeastern Naturalist 12:379-386.
  • Worthen, W. B. 2010. Emergence-site selection by the dragonfly Epitheca spinosa (Hagen). Southeastern Naturalist 9:251-158.
  • Worthen, W. B. 2010. Flying Dragons: A Colorful field experiment in resource partitioning. American Biology Teacher 72:432-435.
  • Worthen, W. B., A. S. Henderson, P. R. Rasmussen, and T. L. Benson (Eds.). 2009. Competition: A multidisciplinary analysis. Boston, MA: Sense.
  • Worthen, W. B. 2009. Dominance of the competition paradigm. IN: W. B. Worthen, A. S. Henderson, P. R. Rasmussen, and T. L. Benson (Eds.). Competition: A multidisciplinary analysis. (pp. xiii-xv). Boston, MA: Sense.
  • Worthen, W. B. 2009. Darwin's entangled bank: the competition paradigm in ecology. IN: W. B. Worthen, A. S. Henderson, P. R. Rasmussen, and T. L. Benson (Eds.). Competition: A multidisciplinary analysis. (pp. 17-31). Boston, MA: Sense.
  • Worthen, W. B. and C. M. Jones*. 2007. The effects of wind speed, competition, and body size on perch height selection in a guild of Libellulidae species (Odonata). International Journal of Odonatology 257-272.
  • Worthen, W. B., and C. M. Jones*. 2006. Relationships between body size, wing morphology, and perch height selection in a guild of Libellulidae species (Odonata). Intenational Journal of Odonatology 9:235-250.
  • Worthen, W. B., and E. R. Patrick*. 2004. The effect of intraspecific and interspecific interactions on perch-height preferences of three odonate taxa. International Journal of Odonatology 7:529-541.
  • Worthen, W. B., S. Gregory*, J. Felten*, and M. J. Hutton*. 2004. Larval habitat associations of the Common Sanddragon (Progomphus obscurus Rambur) at two spatial scales (Odonata: Gomphidae). International Journal of Odonatology 7:97-109.
  • Worthen, W. B. 2003. Nested subset structure of larval odonate assemblages in the Enoree River (USA). International Journal of Odonatology 6:79-90.
  • Worthen, W. B., and D. C. Haney. 2002. Desiccation tolerance of three mycophagous Drosophila species. American Midland Naturalist 147:387-392.
  • Worthen, W. B. 2002. Community ecology of larval odonates in the Enoree River basin of South Carolina. Southeastern Naturalist 1:205-216.
  • Worthen, W. B., T. E. Blue*, D. C. Haney, and C. B. Andersen. 2001. Abundance of Boyeria vinosa larva in the Enoree River basin, USA: chemical, physical, and biological correlates. International Journal of Odonatology 4:231-241.
  • Worthen, W. B., C. C. Cuddy*, D. C. Haney, V. L. Turgeon, and C. B. Andersen. 2001. The effect of an industrial spill on the macrofauna of a South Carolina stream: physiological to community-level responses. Journal of Freshwater Ecology 3:467-477.
  • Andersen, C. B., W. B. Worthen, and B. Polkinghorn. 2001. Humanism in the environmental sciences: a reevaluation. Journal of College Science Teaching 31:202-206.
  • Worthen, W. B., and D. C. Haney. 1999. Temperature tolerance in three mycophagous Drosophila species: relationships with community structure. Oikos 86:113-118.
  • Worthen, W. B., M. T. Jones*, and R. M. Jetton*. 1998. Community structure and environmental stress: desiccation promotes nestedness in mycophagous fly communities. Oikos 81:45-54.
  • Rohde, K., W. B. Worthen, M. Heap, B. Hugueny, and J. Guegan. 1998. Nestedness in assemblages of metazoan ecto- and endoparasites of marine fish. Int. J. Parasitol. 28:543- 549.
  • Worthen, W. B. 1996. Membership patterns and nested subset analyses: Basic descriptors for community ecology. Oikos 76:417-426.
  • Worthen, W. B. 1996. Latitudinal variation in the development time and mass of Drosophila melanogaster: comparisons within and between populations along a latitudinal gradient. Evolution 50:2523-2529.
  • Worthen, W. B., and K. Rohde. 1996. Nested subset analyses of colonization-dominated communities: metazoan ectoparasites of marine fishes. Oikos 75:741-748.
  • Worthen, W. B., M. L. Carswell*, and K. A. Kelly*. 1996. Nested subset structure of larval mycophagous fly assemblages: Nestedness in a non-island system. Oecologia 107:257-264.
  • Worthen, W. B., B. R. Bloodworth*, and M. B. Hobbs*. 1995. Habitat variability in the effects of predation and microclimate on mycophagous fly communities. Ecography 18:248-258.
  • Worthen, W. B., S. Mayrose*, and R. G. Wilson*. 1994. Complex interactions between predation, rainfall, and microclimate: Effects on mycophagous fly communities. Oikos 69:277-286.
  • Worthen, W. B., M. N. Hipp*, C. T. Twardokus*, and R. Roller*. 1993. Effects of ant predation and larval density on mycophagous fly communities. Oikos 66:526-532.
  • Lewis*, G. P. and W. B. Worthen. 1992. Effects of predation and microenvironment on the survival of Drosophila tripunctata larvae. Oikos 64:553-559.
  • Worthen, W. B. and J. L. Moore*. 1991. Higher order interactions and indirect effects: A resolution using laboratory Drosophila communities. American Naturalist 138: 1092-1104.
  • White, D. W., W. Worthen, and E. W. Stiles. 1990. Woodlands in a post-agricultural landscape in New Jersey. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club 117:256-265.
  • Worthen, W. B. and T. R. McGuire. 1990. Predictability of ephemeral mushrooms and implications for mycophagous fly communities. American Midland Naturalist 124:12-23.
  • Worthen, W. B. 1989. Effects of resource density on mycophagous fly dispersal and community structure. Oikos 54:145-153.
  • Worthen, W. B. 1989. Predator-mediated coexistence in laboratory communities of mycophagous Drosophila (Diptera: Drosophilidae). Ecological Entomology 14:117-126.
  • Worthen, W. B. 1988. Slugs (Arion spp.) facilitate mycophagous drosophilids in laboratory and field experiments. Oikos 53:161-166.
  • Worthen, W. B. and T. R. McGuire. 1988. A criticism of the aggregation model of coexistence: non- independent distribution of dipteran species on ephemeral resources. American Naturalist 131:453-458.
  • Worthen, W. B. and E. W. Stiles. 1988. Pollen-limited fruit set in isolated patches of Maianthemum canadense (Desf.) in New Jersey. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club 115:299-305.
  • Worthen, W. B. and E. W. Stiles. 1986. Phenotypic and demographic variability among patches of Maianthemum canadense (Desf.) in central New Jersey, and the use of self-incompatibility for clone discrimination. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club 113:398-405.
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