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Richard G. Beidleman, 1923 - 2014


Ellen Paul

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Dr. Richard G. Beidleman dedicated his life and career to teaching, research, and conservation, and ornithology was his passion and a central focus of his endeavors. He was a lifelong member of the American Ornithologists’ Union (AOU) and other ornithological societies, first presenting a paper at AOU in 1954 (Winter Species Association Groups Among Birds).  Dr. Beidleman published extensively on ornithology in Audubon Field Notes, Audubon Magazine, Condor, Journal of the Colorado-Wyoming Academy of Science, American Birds, Cooper Ornithological Society, Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, Journal of Field Ornithology, American Scientist, and Colorado Birds.  He believed in publishing in popular magazines and newspapers to encourage greater interest in birds (e.g. The School Children and the State Bird, Denver Post), and did so with humor and a mastery of the history of science.  In 1951 he wrote a two-part article in Audubon Magazine, “Bird-watching – Hobby of the Half Century,” where he related a story about Joseph Hickey, a well-known ornithologist and bird watcher who once commented that bird watching is regarded by some people as “a mild paralysis of the central nervous system, which can be cured only by rising at dawn and sitting in a bog.”

 

Dr. Beidleman commenced winter bird-population studies in 1948 (in various habitats—cottonwood-willow riverbottom, ponderosa pine, scrub oak,  piñon-juniper woodland, Douglas-fir, even cemeteries, shopping centers, and highway rest stops) and published them annually through 1996.  He pursued many other ornithological studies, such as on the roosting behavior of White-throated Swifts and on European Starling-Pinyon Jay associations.  He participated in the Breeding Bird Census and, for over 60 years (his last at age 90), in Christmas Bird Counts (CBC), including as longtime compiler of the Black Forest CBC.  He taught university ornithology courses at Colorado State University, University of Colorado, and Colorado College; taught bird short courses and seminars for the Rocky Mountain Nature Association, Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, and others; and gave hundreds of lectures on birds for organizations and the general public.  In 2004 he received the Colorado Field Ornithologists’ Ronald A. Ryder Award for Distinguished Service to Colorado Field Ornithology.  
 
His obituary follows:
 
Dr. Richard “Dick” Gooch Beidleman, Professor Emeritis at Colorado College, passed away on August 7, 2014 after a battle with cancer.  He was ninety-one.  He started his teaching career as an Assistant Professor of Zoology at Colorado State University in Fort Collins while finishing his M.A. (biology) and Ph.D. (ecology) at the University of Colorado, Boulder (CU).  He then became an Assistant Professor of Biology at CU.  In these early years, he enjoyed stints as a summer ranger-naturalist at Yosemite and Rocky Mountain National Parks. 
 
In 1957 Dr. Beidleman moved to Colorado Springs, where he filled teaching positions at Colorado College as Assistant, Associate, and then Full Professor of Biology.  He most enjoyed teaching his field courses, especially in Southwestern Ecosystems and Piñon-Juniper Woodlands.  He also served as Chairman of the Biology Department during his tenure.  He retired as Professor Emeritus in 1988, and an Honorary Doctor of Science was conferred on him by Colorado College in 1989. His influence on the lives and careers of his students and colleagues was profound. He taught with boundless energy and enthusiasm, a memorable sense of humor, and compassion.  His legacy lives on in the lives and accomplishments of the thousands of students he inspired, creating in them, as one wrote, “better and more responsible advocates for the natural world.” 
In addition to sharing his knowledge and love of the environment with his students, Dr. Beidleman gave hundreds of public lectures nationally and internationally.  He received many awards, and was responsible for helping to save, as open space, additions to the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, as well as the Aiken Canyon Preserve for The Nature Conservancy, Mueller Ranch for Colorado State Parks, and Florissant Fossil Beds for the National Park Service.
 
Dr. Beidleman’s research in the fields of ornithology, vertebrate zoology, ecology, the history of science, and science education led to his writing over 420 publications. One of his passions was studying and writing about the history of science in both the U.S. and Australia.  He returned many times to Australia, transfixed by its spectacular natural history.  His last significant publication was California’s Frontier Naturalists, and at the time of his death he was working on a book manuscript on German botanist, Frederick Creutzfeldt, and the 1853 Gunnison Expedition.  
 
He also taught plant and bird short courses and seminars at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, Rocky Mountain Nature Association, University of California, and other venues.  For almost two decades he volunteered as a Research Associate and archivist at The University and Jepson Herbaria Archives at the University of California, Berkeley.
Dick’s personal hobbies were his professional ones.  He was happiest when teaching, researching, or traveling and being outdoors observing nature—counting birds or identifying plants.  Beyond enjoying and recording bird sightings in his backyard in Pacific Grove, California, he participated every year in the Monterey Peninsula Christmas Bird Count, completing his last one, at age ninety, on December 27, 2013. 
 
His daughter, Carol Beidleman (of Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Estes Park, Colorado), followed in his footsteps, pursuing a career in conservation and ornithology.  
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