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Thomas W. Custer 1945 - 2018

Fern Davies

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Thomas W. Custer, a noted waterbird biologist, passed away peacefully at home on Oct. 12, 2018. Dr. Custer, who received his PhD in Zoology from the University of California, Berkley in 1974, started his professional career with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD. He was next stationed in Victoria, TX along the Gulf Coast, and then finally moved to the upper Midwest to take a job at what is now the USGS Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center in La Crosse, WI. He remained a research scientist with the Department of Interior for the rest of his career producing more than 100 peer-reviewed scientific publications. He worked until his death because that is what he loved to do. His passion was to collect and analyze data and then publish those findings. His research focused primarily on the effects of contaminants on bird populations. He worked mostly on aquatic birds, such as the black-crowned night heron, many other heron and egret species, as well as, terns and waterfowl. More recently he used tree swallows to understand contaminant effects. He also studied the energetics of Lapland Longspurs near Barrow, AK, declining moose populations in northwestern MN, and even worked on lizard species in NM

He investigated an eclectic mix of contaminants including PCBs, dioxins and furans, and trace metals such as mercury and lead, but he was more recently delving into the effects of many of the newer contaminants such as the brominated flame retardants, perfluorinated chemicals, and pharmaceuticals and personal care products.

He is survived by his wife, Christine, also a noted waterbird biologist at the USGS Upper Midwest Environmental Science Center., who co-authored many scientific publications with her husband. In 2017, the Custers were awarded the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) Government Service Award for their work in avian ecotoxicology which has contributed to the research on contaminant exposure and effects on reproduction and other biomarkers in bird populations



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