Al Bennett obtained his B.S. (with highest honors) and Ph.D. degrees in zoology, respectively, from the University of California at Riverside and the University of Michigan. Subsequently he served as a Miller Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California at Berkeley. He joined the faculty of the University of California at Irvine in 1974. There he served as Chair of the Departments of Developmental & Cell Biology and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and as both Acting Dean and Dean of the School of Biological Sciences. He was the Inaugural Hana and Francisco J. Ayala Dean of the Ayala School of Biological Sciences and served as Vice Provost for Academic Initiatives at the University of California, Irvine. He is currently Professor Emeritus in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the School of Biological Sciences at UC Irvine.
Bennett’s areas of research are comparative and evolutionary physiology, fields that are concerned with the interaction of living systems with their environments. His research has concentrated on temperature biology and energy exchange. He has been particularly concerned with understanding the physiological and evolutionary causation of patterns of ectothermy and endothermy in the vertebrate lineage. He also has done extensive research in experimental evolution, using populations of bacteria to observe patterns of evolutionary change in different thermal and acidic environments. His work has provided an important tool for testing evolutionary hypotheses and determining the diversity of adaptive responses to novel environments. He has published more than 180 articles on these topics, and his research has been supported continuously by the National Science Foundation since 1975.
Bennett has been elected a Member of American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a Member of Phi Beta Kappa. He has served as President of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology and Chair of the Comparative Physiology Section of the American Physiological Society. He was the recipient of a National Institutes of Health Career Development Award. He has served at a Visiting Researcher at the Universities of Western Australia and Adelaide, the Darwin Research Station in Galapagos, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, the Organization for Tropical Studies in Costa Rica, the University of Nairobi, and the University of Chicago and Michigan State University. He was an August Krogh Distinguished Lecturer of the American Physiological Society, a Hansen Distinguished Lecturer at the University of California Berkeley, and the Western Evolutionary Biologist of the Year of the Network for Experimental Research on Evolution. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Crystal Cove Alliance and the Irvine Ranch Conservancy.