James Costa

Jim Costa (RI '05) hails from the southern Blue Ridge Mountains, where he is currently Executive Director and Professor at Western Carolina University's Highlands Biological Station, teaching courses in biogeography, Darwin’s Origin of Species, and a comparative temperate/tropical ecology field course with Wildsumaco Biological Station in Ecuador. An avid field naturalist with a special interest in insect social behavior, evolution and history of science, Jim has been a Research Associate of the Museum of Comparative Zoology for nearly 30 years, and also taught for many years in Harvard’s annual Darwin summer program at the University of Oxford.

Jim's research and writing now largely focus on Charles Darwin, Alfred Russel Wallace, and the history of evolutionary biology. He is the author of 9 books, including The Annotated Origin, On the Organic Law of Change, and Wallace, Darwin, and the Origin of Species (all Harvard University Press), Darwin's Backyard: How Small Experiments Led to a Big Theory (W. W. Norton) and most recently the new biography Radical by Nature: The Revolutionary Life of Alfred Russel Wallace (Princeton University Press), and Darwin and the Art of Botany: Observations on the Curious World of Plants (Timber Press), co-authored with botanical artist Bobbi Angell.

Jim is a Trustee of the London-based Charles Darwin Trust, and has held fellowships at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, the Humanities Institute of the LuEsther T. Mertz Library (New York Botanical Garden), the University of Hamburg, and the University of Toulouse. His honors include the Alfred Russel Wallace Medal (2017) and the Stephen Jay Gould Prize of the Society for the Study of Evolution (2023).