Saturday, July 25, 2009

Joe Neal comments on birthday of Doug James

Today is the birthday of my friend, coauthor, teacher Douglas A. James. Born in Detroit, he was hired over the phone to teach at the UA-Fayetteville more than a half century ago. He told me recently he arrived in Arkansas for the first time on a bus, suitcase in hand, and lived in a boarding house on Arkansas Avenue in sight of Old Main. Who could have known the outcome of over 5 decades of research, teaching, field trips, experiments, and writing? He continues on all of these fronts, including regular scientific publications. In recent years he has made generous gifts to the Arkansas Audubon Society Trust and he continues as a member of the AAS Bird Records committee. Last fall he offered his prestige to help rebuild a faltering Northwest Arkansas Audubon Society which he had helped found two decades before.

Much of what we know about our state's avifauna is directly attributable to his life work as ecologist, teacher, and mentor. Beginning in the early 1950s, Doug and others compiled an extensive card file of bird records for the state, including the Ozarks. This file served as the basis for a summary of the occurrence of birds in Arkansas (1964). These records, plus Doug’s own research and that of his many students, formed the core of the book Arkansas Birds (1986). His former students populate natural resource management agencies in Arkansas and far beyond. There are legions of Arkansans who first discovered the joy of birding and an interest in all aspects of natural history on a Doug James field trip.

Other than his obvious and numerous academic achievements, Doug’s career is a unique & creative example of bringing together professionals and private citizens in positive efforts for environmental commonsense. Not the least of these was helping found and build the Ozark Society that played such a key role in the ultimately successful effort to stop dams on the Buffalo River and create a national park. Doug has always inspired students to learn their ecology and then to become involved in real world applications beneficial to birds and human society as well.

Happy birthday, Doug and may you see many many more!

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