Brief History of the Roosevelt Wild Life Station
The Roosevelt Wild Life Forest Experiment Station was written into NY State law on 10 May 1919 as a memorial to Theodore Roosevelt, the former governor of NY who became widely lauded as the “Conservation President” of the United States. It is especially fitting that the Station resides in NY State, whose natural riches inspired Roosevelt to become a life-long and powerful force for conservation. Although the Station was established as a memorial following Roosevelt’s death, he expressed support for the Station as originally proposed in 1916 and even advocated for it to the Boone & Crockett Club that year. As such the Station has the unique distinction of being the only memorial bearing Roosevelt’s name that evolved from plans he originally approved of in person.
The proposal for the Station, written by Charles C. Adams (the Station’s first Director), outlined the need in 1916 as stemming from a fundamental lack of enquiry into “the activities of the living animal and its relation to the real world in which it lives”, the only then emerging concept of wildlife and game as a “resource” worthy of management alongside wood and other forest products, and a lack of focused study on the life history needs of game animals. The proposal detailed field camps with support for naturalists to study big game and fur-bearing species throughout North America, and urged the establishment of fellowships and scholarships to support a “rising generation of trained men” capable of carrying out scientific enquiry into the needs of wildlife. The law added that a “library of works” also be created to serve as a means of “practical illustration and demonstration” that is open to the public.
During its first 30 years of existence, the Station undertook research on birds, fish, game, fur-bearing animals, and forest management throughout the United States, with a particular emphasis on Yellowstone National Park, the Adirondack Mountains, and Oneida Lake in central NY State. More than 5,500 pages of research were published by the Station through the Roosevelt Wild Life Bulletin (1921-1950) and Roosevelt Wild Life Annals (1926-1936), among which are the first published maps of beaver activity in Yellowstone National Park by Edward Warren and a stunningly comprehensive assessment of the parasites of Oneida Lake fish by Justus Mueller. Moon Library on the ESF main campus maintains record of the research expeditions including photographs and 10,000+ negatives. The expeditions also contributed to a collection of vertebrate specimens, today housing thousands of specimens, to which the name “Roosevelt Wildlife Collection” was attached in 1964. Today the collection serves as a resource for hundreds of students each year studying species diversity and distribution at ESF.
Focusing on the most pressing conservation issues in wildlife, training smart and field-savvy wildlife professionals, and engaging the public in conservation issues remains the focus of the Station to this day. Building on the strengths of the applied conservation program at ESF, the scope of the Station’s work has grown to encompass plants, communities, and ecosystems, and species at risk in addition to game and non-game wildlife, and now has a strong and growing international program as well.
A modern vision for the Roosevelt Wild Life Station
Nearly 100 years after the founding of the Station, Theodore Roosevelt remains as pertinent a role model as ever for emerging and practicing wildlife professionals who must navigate the complex biological and political landscapes of an increasingly human-dominated world to conserve our wildlife heritage. Students enrolling in today’s wildlife programs increasingly have little experience or knowledge of field work, natural history of organisms, wildlife-habitat relationships, and consumptive uses of wildlife. More than ever, today’s students need direct experiences with wildlife, habitat, and the stakeholder community to gain an appreciation for the multi-faceted demands of their chosen profession, provide them with the skills required to tackle real-world problems, and prepare them for the lifelong and self-directed learning they will need to engage in as professionals. Current professionals need opportunities to augment their past training with skills in collaboration, transparency in decision-making, emerging technologies, and systems-based approaches that are so critical to management of wildlife today. It is in this spirit that that we “re-envision” the role of the Roosevelt Wild Life Station as a vehicle for delivering to society more of the smart, politically savvy and field-worthy wildlife professionals that Theodore Roosevelt so exemplified.
Our vision is “to promote the conservation of ‘wild life’ (all natural living things) as exemplified by the life and works of Theodore Roosevelt. And our strategy for doing so is three-fold: expand educational opportunities for emerging and continuing professionals, facilitate discovery and excellence in research, and communicate science to engage the public in conservation action.
Expanded educational opportunities
- Provide an ongoing source of funding to grow, upgrade, and secure the Roosevelt Wild Life Collection.
- Develop an “immersion experience” in wildlife conservation and management to embed a large cadre of students in urban, suburban, and wilderness wildlife issues, expose them to the range of diversity in stakeholder interests, and place them alongside professionals on the “front-line” of conservation and management.
- Create scholarship opportunities to attract highly qualified students from demographic minorities into our wildlife program and eventually transition them into the wildlife profession.
- Deliver technical workshops for professionals on a range of topics through both in-house and “distance-learning” modules.
Facilitating discovery and excellence in research
- Secure an endowed research chair position to “grow” the wildlife science and conservation biology program, and provide an annual funding stream for applied research directed at targeted information needs for wildlife conservation.
- Establish two research funding streams, “Roosevelt Fellowships” for expedition- and field-oriented research by undergraduate and starting graduate students and “Roosevelt Discovery Grants” for “high-risk/high-reward” research into the problems facing faunal conservation by advanced graduate students and faculty.
- Initiate a “Roosevelt Wild Life Stewardship Award” to recognize individuals having an exemplary role in the conservation and management of faunal species, especially those individuals who successfully link science to management action.
Communicating science to engage the public in conservation
- Resurrect the Roosevelt Wild Life Bulletin through video, radio, and web-based resources on natural history information, research activities, and conservation/management actions.
For more information: An article from Fair Chase about the Roosevelt Wild Life Station
View this paper