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1 January 2012 In Memoriam: David B. Marshall, 1926–2011
Alan L. Contreras
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David B. Marshall, 1926–2011

(With a young Red-winged Blackbird at McFadden's Marsh, Benton County, Oregon, 1947. Photograph by Tom McAllister.)


David Marshall, a Member (1942), Elective Member (1974), and Fellow (1989) of the AOU, died on 22 November 2011. He chaired the AOU Committee on Conservation (1973-1975), recieved the U.S. Department of Interior's Meritorious Service Award and the National Audubon Society's Audubon Activists Award (1998).

Born on 7 March 1926, Dave was the first of three children born to Earl and Dorothy Marshall. He grew up in Portland, Oregon, where he made frequent childhood forays into the fields and woods to observe birds. His parents were supportive of his interest in nature and enabled him to meet local professional ornithologists and authors such as Stanley Jewett (Birds of Oregon, 1940 [with I. Gabrielson]; Birds of Washington State, 1953), Ira Gabrielson (Birds of Alaska, 1959), nature photographer and writer William L. Finley, and noted bird illustrator Bruce Horsfall.

Dave first visited Malheur National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in 1937 as an 11-year-old. In his Memoirs of a Wildlife Biologist (Audubon Society of Portland, 2008), he allows that “it became a sort of dream that I could someday work there.” Along with a few boyhood friends, he developed the habit of birding northwest Oregon by bicycle. In the late 1930s these teenagers crossed the Cascade Range by bicycle, carrying camping gear, and ranged at large throughout the Portland area and the northern Willamette Valley.

In 1943, Marshall got a job as a fire lookout in the Fremont National Forest of southern Oregon, as did his birding friend Tom McAllister. They kept careful bird notes and prepared an article subsequently published in The Auk. Shortly thereafter, Dave joined the Army Air Force, trained as a B-17 ball-turret gunner, and flew in several missions over Europe before World War II ended. Marshall first saw his Auk article in print as a 19-year-old airman on leave while visiting the home of British ornithologist Robert Coombes.

After the war, Dave worked for the Forest Service and for Crater Lake National Park, then returned to Oregon State College, where he graduated with a degree in Fish and Game Management. Dave started his career at Stillwater NWR in Nevada and then the Sacramento refuge complex, where he helped Peter Scott find his first wild Ross's Goose and birded with Jean Delacour. He was also involved in the management of new refuges in Hawaii and Alaska. In September 1955, his boyhood dream came true when he was transferred from the Sacramento Refuge to Malheur as the Wildlife Management Biologist. He would hold this position for 5 years before transferring to the Regional Office, where he served as the Regional Wildlife Biologist, a position he held for 12 years.

He conducted numerous surveys and wildlife censuses on the refuge during his tenure at Malheur. His findings are still used today to track trends in wildlife activity at the refuge. In addition to these regular projects, Dave was intensely involved in Trumpeter Swan reintroduction at Malheur. Descendants of the original swans brought from Red Rocks Lakes, Montana, by Dave still flourish on the refuge. During his tenure at Malheur Refuge, Dave was present in 1958 for the 50th anniversary of the creation of the refuge; he was also present at the refuge's centennial celebration in 2008.

He studied early carp eradication efforts in the late 1950s and provided documentation of ecological responses following carp control efforts. His photographs and reports are still useful today as the refuge crafts carp research and control plans. Another of his photos, a pair of dancing cranes, is widely recognized and was used to create the logo for the John Scharff Migratory Bird Festival.

Serious consideration of establishing NWRs in the Willamette Valley began in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Dave then chaired the region's Land Acquisition Refuge Committee for the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife and conducted a 2-year study of land and water resources for the purpose of implementing the Pacific Flyway Waterfowl Management Plan. Marshall identified 17 sites in his assessments. In 1963, the region decided to pursue five of them for acquisition, and three eventually became part of the Willamette Valley NWR Complex. Today they are William L. Finley, Baskett Slough, and Ankeny NWRs.

He also helped establish the Lewis and Clark NWR on the Columbia River, added units to the Oregon Islands NWR on the Pacific Coast, and helped establish nine new refuges on the main Hawaiian Islands. In addition, he was the first to identify the need for research on the endangered birds of Hawaii. As an ex officio member of the California Condor Advisory Committee, Marshall co-authored a report (California Condor Research and Management Program, 1965) that helped solidify the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (USFWS) commitment to long-term research and conservation. While in Portland, he helped establish the Oregon Chapter of The Wildlife Society.

In 1973, Dave became chief biologist for birds and mammals in the new endangered species program in Washington, D.C. He rewrote the listing notice for the Bald Eagle, proposing it as threatened in some states and endangered in others, an approach that is now common practice but at the time was considered unusual. His willingness to work with falconers helped facilitate the partnership between The Peregrine Fund and the USFWS that led to one of our country's greatest conservation success stories.

During this period, his work included both technical research on endangered species and such improbable activities as an assignment to transport two Sandhill Cranes to Tokyo as a gift to the Emperor of Japan, including the unexpected need to find them overnight lodging in Anchorage, all of which is recounted in the Memoirs.

Having wearied of Washington, he returned to Portland in 1976 to become the Regional Endangered Species Coordinator. Over the next 5 years, he issued more than 300 biological opinions on endangered species. Many of these opinions were highly controversial, but none received serious challenges or resulted in legal actions—a testament to his ability to grasp many aspects of an issue and to put the resource first at all times. Throughout his career, Dave played the role of bridge-builder among groups and individuals with different views but shared interests in conserving America's wildlife.

In 1981, Dave retired from the USFWS after 32 years. Working as a consultant, he prepared Oregon's first plan for nongame wildlife (1986), helped assemble the first sensitive species list for Oregon, co-authored Sensitive Vertebrates of Oregon (1992), and prepared a status report on the Marbled Murrelet that resulted in the species being listed as threatened in California, Oregon, and Washington.

Through the years, another project was on his mind since childhood and the publication of Jewett and Gabrielson's (1940) book on Oregon birds. In 1998, Dave, with two co-editors, 100 writers, and other supporting volunteers, organized the monumental Birds of Oregon: A General Reference (Oregon State University Press, 2003). Birds of Oregon sold well in hardcover, an astonishing accomplishment for a relatively expensive scientific reference weighing more than 5 pounds. The book continues in print in paperback and is widely considered one of the best modern state bird books.

Dave is survived by his daughter Janet and son John, his brother Albert and sister Nancy, three grandchildren, and his wife Georgia. This memorial was prepared with contributions from Jeff Marks, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Marshall family.

© 2012 by The American Ornithologists' Union. All rights reserved. Please direct all requests for permission to photocopy or reproduce article content through the University of California Press's Rights and Permissions website,
Alan L. Contreras "In Memoriam: David B. Marshall, 1926–2011," The Auk 129(1), 177-178, (1 January 2012).
Published: 1 January 2012
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