Ward Watt received his Ph.D. from Yale University. He and his research group seek to develop evolutionary theory from mechanistic viewpoints. They use animal model systems, most often butterflies of the genus Colias, to pursue this goal.
Using techniques ranging from DNA sequencing, enzymology or metabolic analysis to wind-tunnel flight biophysics, field ecology and population genetics, the Watt group studies molecular and physiological mechanisms of the action of genetic variation, its interaction with ecological niche structure, and the resulting evolution of phenotypic organization. Bioenergetics, the study of energy flow through living systems, is used as a general context in which to evaluate alternative states of phenotypic adaptedness, constraint or neutrality. This work is uncovering the mechanisms, both behavioral and physical, by which insects regulate their body temperatures, and is suggesting new approaches to the question of why thermoregulation is adaptively important. It is clarifying the mechanistic basis of diverse, but generalizable, forms of natural selection on energy-processing metabolism. The recent discovery that much natural variation in such systems occurs in parallel in many related species of Colias offers the chance to study the interaction between adaptive specialization and phyletic diversification and is involving the group in molecular studies of Coliasís systematics.
Professor Watt is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the California Academy of Sciences. He has been awarded Stanfordís Deanís Award for Teaching and its Allan Cox Medal for Excellence in Fostering Undergraduate Research.
Former members of the Watt group are members of the faculties or research staffs of Arizona State University, Brown University, Cornell University, Harvard University, Louisiana State University, Princeton University, Yale University, the Missouri Botanic Garden and the Universities of Arizona, California, Nebraska, Vermont and Washington.

Selected Publications