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Charlie Dane, 1934 – 2016

Jane Austin

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Charles Warren Dane (1934 – 2016)    Charles W. Dane, 81, died with his wife by his side, at Fairfax INOVA Hospital on January 25, 2016.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Charlie was born in Washington, District of Columbia, on September 21, 1934. He was the son of Carle H. and Alva M. Dane. Charlie attended local schools in the District and graduated in 1952 from Woodrow Wilson High School. He was a member of St. Albans Episcopal Church, and he was active in the Order of DeMolay. As a Boy Scout during his youth, he was in Inaugural Parade in 1949, and he earned Eagle Scout rank in 1950. Growing up, Charlie often traveled with his father, who was a fuels geologist at the U. S. Geological Survey. On geological field trips, they camped much of the time in the Southwest United States, as well as the Dakotas, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Utah. These experiences while traveling with his father stimulated an early interest in science and nature.


Charlie developed a keen interest in birds at an early age. He took the initiative to get involved with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). While in high school, he worked with Refuge Biologist Merrill Hammond as unpaid summer trainee at Lower Souris National Wildlife Refuge in North Dakota. Refuge Manager Donald Gray and Regional Director Richard Griffith were names in his notes from that summer. He also spent a month as a trainee without compensation in 1950 at the U.S. National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., where he worked with Herbert Deigman, Assistant Curator of Birds. Before starting college, he had already identified 270 species of birds in the field, and he was a member of National Audubon Society in the District of Columbia.

Charlie attended Cornell University, where he was a member of the rowing team, as well as Delta Tau Delta fraternity and the U.S. Air Force ROTC. He completed a Bachelor of Science degree in 1956. He remained at Cornell to work with Dr. Oliver H. Hewitt for his Master of Science. His thesis was entitled “Succession of aquatic plants in small artificial marshes in New York State” which he completed in 1957.

After completing his M.S., Charlie spent three years serving with the USAF Strategic Air Command.  Then, he returned to continue graduate studies at Purdue University working with Dr. Durward Allen on a Ph.D. program. Charlie conducted his research at Delta Waterfowl Research Station in Manitoba, where he worked with H. Albert Hochbaum and Peter Ward. His research on the Blue-winged Teal (Anas discors) involved raising birds from hatching and determining feather markings to age the birds.  His dissertation was entitled “The influence of age on development and reproductive capability of blue-winged teal.”

In 1964, he commenced his long professional career in the Department of the Interior at the Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center (NPWRC) near Jamestown, North Dakota. He was one of the first research biologists hired by the USFWS at this new facility. He served as the avian physiologist where he conducted independent research and collaborated with other scientists on their projects, particularly age determination of Redhead (Aythya americana) and Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) ducks. He published ten papers, comments, and notes in scientific literature related to his work at NWRC, but his contributions to the Center were many and important during its formative years. In addition, Charlie was detailed to the Washington Office where he participated in a team writing the Environmental Impact Statement on the use of lead shot for hunting migratory waterfowl.

While at NPWRC in Jamestown, Charlie was engaged in the community. He was active in Boy Scouts, United Way, Library Board, and the Episcopal Church, both locally and state-wide. He also was elected to 3-year term on the School Board, and he served 3 years as Chair of Biology Department at Jamestown College (now University of Jamestown). He led a group of friends to raise money and supervise construction of an indoor ice arena for the city. His coworkers from that time remember Charlie as both a supportive colleague and an engaging friend.

In 1976, Charlie was appointed as the Staff Specialist for Migratory Birds in the Division of Wildlife Research in the Washington Office. He provided nationwide guidance and support for migratory birds researchers at all of the Service’s Wildlife Research Centers and he also worked closely with the Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units. He was an integral member of the Division’s staff because of his broad knowledge and experience with migratory birds, as well as his detailed understanding of the scope of the scientific assignments and budgets allocated to support this work at the Centers. He played a key role in effectively representing this work with the Service’s Program Management staff. He also was instrumental in the development of the National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin. He developed a reputation of being a workaholic because of conscientious devotion to the job and long hours spent in the office.


Charlie served in this position until 1984 when he was named Chief, Office of Scientific Authority (Now the Division of Scientific Authority in the Office of International Affairs). Here he was deeply involved in USFWS activities related to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to implement domestic laws and enforce international treaties promoting the long-term conservation of plant and animal species. The CITES primary objective was to ensure that international trade does not threaten their survival in the wild. Charlie was particularly well-suited to this work because of his penchant for scientific details and his meticulous work ethic. With the Scientific Authority, he traveled throughout the world representing the USA negotiating and administering CITES agreements on trade of endangered species.


Among many accomplishments during his tenure was the successful effort working with other countries in 1989 to increase protections for the African Elephant (Loxodonta africana) by establishing a moratorium effectively limiting import of ivory to the United States. He also played a key role in passage of the Wild Bird Conservation Act of 1992 and the drafting of regulations to implement the Act. During that same time, Charlie oversaw the Service's efforts to appropriately list Argali Sheep (Ovis ammon) under the Endangered Species Act. This decision was controversial, with litigation challenging the listings.  Again, Charlie was in the center of this storm--and prevailed. Finally, the Giant Panda Policy went into effect in 1998 to get control over "rent-a-panda" agreements between China and U.S. zoos.


Dr. Roddy Gabel, who succeeded Charlie as OSA Chief, observed that he was a stickler for ethical behavior and following the rules. OSA staff members weren’t allowed to accept so much as a hamburger from somebody who had official dealings with the Office. Dr. Rosemarie Gnam, who is the current Chief, Division of Scientific Authority, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, offered this assessment: "Dr. Charlie Dane led the Division of Scientific Authority, through a critical time in our history. He was a strong advocate for sound scientific decision making. He championed the adoption of many species proposals at the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Conferences at an important time, when CITES was in its formative years to regulate international wildlife trade.  We are grateful for his service and leadership. His legacy, through the outcomes he and his scientific team achieved for wildlife, will continue to have an impact well into the future."


Charlie suffered from kidney disease that was first detected in 1975. His kidney disease was chronic glomerular nephritis, an autoimmune response caused by his body overreacting to a case of the flu. When his kidneys finally failed in 1998, he retired from the USFWS to go on hemodialysis. His 14-year tenure was the longest of any Scientific Authority Chief. Nevertheless, Charlie maintained an active interest in activities of the Office even into retirement. He provided journal articles and other information on issues of relevance to the Office staff. 


In retirement, Charlie was a full time volunteer in Fairfax County, Virginia. He served on his home-owners civic association, and then represented them on the Fairfax County Federation of Citizens Associations. He served the Federation as Education chair, as well as on several advisory committees to the School Board, including human relations and budget. He was active on the task force to select a new Superintendent for Fairfax Public Schools, and recently he was appointed to a select task force on the Schools’ budget. In addition, Charlie was active with the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE) chapter in Annandale. Over the years, he held many chapter offices. Charlie also was appointed to Fairfax County Commission on Organ and Tissue Transplantation on which he served about 15 years. He received a kidney transplant in 2006 after 8 years on dialysis.

Charlie was a Life Member of The Wildlife Society, who joined as a student in 1954 and remained active until his passing in 2016. He engaged in several hobbies, including gardening and genealogy. He enjoyed bluegrass music and was a fan of the Seldom Scene, Gibson Brothers, and other groups regularly appearing in concerts at the Birchmere. He also was interested in culturing African violets and many other flowering household plants that filled his sunroom. With friends, he enjoyed a gourmet dining club for several years. Charlie was able to return to Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center in August 2015 to celebrate the center's 50th anniversary and visit with old colleagues.


Charlie is survived by his wife, Dorothy (“Dottie), whom he married in 1957 while both were students at Cornell.  He is also survived by son, Douglas; daughter, Sandra; grandson, Carl Anderson; sister, Barbara Harris and three nephews. A memorial service celebrating his life was held February 20th at the Fairfax Memorial Funeral Home. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors honored Charlie at a recent meeting with a moment of silence to mark his passing. The Supervisor representing Annandale recounted some of Charlie’s work as a volunteer.


By David Trauger

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