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1 January 2008 In Memoriam: Arthur Eugene Staebler, 1915–2007
Brad Valentine
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Arthur Eugene Staebler, who joined the AOU in 1935 and became an Elective Member in 1955, died on 5 March 2007 at the age of 91, at home, in Clovis, California. The oldest of three children, Art was born on 3 May 1915 in Detroit and moved to Birmingham, Michigan, at the age of four. In high school, he learned the natural sciences by collecting insects and birds for the Cranbrook Institute of Science. He graduated high school in 1933.

Art majored in Zoology (B.A., 1938) at the University of Michigan (U of M), then immediately entered the graduate program there. He spent six months with a team of scientists in Chiapas, Mexico, where he collected animal specimens, many of which are still housed in the U of M Museum of Zoology. He received an M.S. in 1940.

Art met Helen Williams, of Columbus, Ohio, while at the U of M, and they married in 1940. Caught up in Art's love of nature, the day after the wedding, they traveled and honeymooned at a boys' camp, where he worked as a nature counselor. In 1943, they had their first child, Bruce. In 1947, while living in Ann Arbor, they had twin girls, Ann and Susan. Their fourth child, Chad, was born in 1957 in Fresno, California. Helen, his wife of some 67 years, outlived Art by about a month.

In November 1943, Art was commissioned as a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Public Health Service and was stationed in Miami, Florida. His assignment was to ensure that alien insects that might pose public health or environmental risks would not enter the country. At the end of the war, Art was discharged and returned to U of M to pursue his Ph.D. in Ornithology. In 1949, he became director of the W.K. Kellogg Bird Sanctuary in Augusta, Michigan. Concurrently, he completed his doctorate, with a dissertation comparing the life histories of Downy and Hairy woodpeckers.

In 1955, Art became an Assistant Professor of Biology at Fresno State College (now California State University, Fresno). Until retiring in 1980, he taught courses in biology, ornithology, advanced ornithology, vertebrate natural history, vertebrate zoology, and vertebrate paleontology. He also developed and taught concentrated inter-session classes in museum specimen preparation, waterfowl management, and desert ecology. During the turbulent 1960s and against a resistant administration, Art championed faculty personnel decisions based on qualifications and performance. Starting in the 1970s, he began a survey of vertebrate fossils, mostly in the hills west of the San Joaquin Valley. Then, as an emeritus professor, he expanded this interest and discovered new species of mosasaurs and plesiosaurs.

Art was a captivating instructor. Students eagerly anticipated each new topic introduced with his trademark: “Imagine, if you will….” Flexible and generous with his time, Art was happy to administer students' independent studies. He chaired committees for 11 graduate students, whose work covered a wide range of subjects---regional floras, estuarine fish, freshwater fish, Great Blue Herons, White-crowned Sparrows, Sierra Nevada meadow avifauna, American Dippers, and food habits of deer and range cattle. In retirement, he chaired two committees for master's theses on paleontological subjects. Even late in life, at an assisted-living facility, Art continued teaching by taking the other residents on field trips and otherwise sharing his knowledge and joy for living. Art's participation in numerous projects and organizations was extraordinary. In addition to membership in the AOU, he also held memberships in the Wilson Ornithological Society and Cooper Ornithological Society. Among his many achievements in ornithology, he helped to develop and design a cannon-net trapping system for waterfowl and a waterfowl banding-identification system, and encouraged coordinated banding programs to address regional questions. He helped establish the Fresno Junior Museum (later “The Discovery Center”) and develop a bird sanctuary at Fresno's Woodward Park. Art's passion for the natural world will continue to be felt through the actions of the many educators and agency biologists he touched.

Brad Valentine "In Memoriam: Arthur Eugene Staebler, 1915–2007," The Auk 125(1), 237-238, (1 January 2008).
Published: 1 January 2008
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