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Reed Bowman 1958 - 2023

Fern Davies

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Jonathan Reed Bowman passed away unexpectedly in Sebring on Sept 18, 2023.


Born in 1958 in Columbus, Ohio, Reed grew up in Westchester County, New York, with parents who encouraged his outdoor interests. Against the odds, he survived cancer as a teenager and, with renewed vigor, he embraced life-long wilderness adventure. His young adult experiences as a backcountry ranger in the Adirondack High Peaks region were formative. He began college with a love of English literature (BA degree) that morphed into a passion for biology (MS degree), and birds in particular (Ph.D). His early research in ornithology ranged from American Kestrels in the Arctic, to Common Ravens in the mountains of Idaho and White-crowned Pigeons in the Florida Keys. For thirty-two years, he studied Florida Scrub-Jays at Archbold Biological Station in Lake Placid, Florida, where he mentored dozens of interns and graduate students and interacted with biological researchers from all over the globe. His research also focused on endangered species management of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers and Florida Grasshopper Sparrows at the Avon Park Air Force Range. Throughout his career, Reed had an extensive network of colleagues and friends who ignited his intellect and continually propelled him to pursue his research questions and set new goals, both personal and professional. He was very active in professional societies, including his service as president of the Association of Field Ornithologists (2014-16), president of the Florida Ornithological Society (1997-99), chair of the research awards committee for the American Ornithologists’ Union, and co-editor of the Journal of Field Ornithology. He presented scientific papers to ornithological conferences all over the world and received multiple recognitions for his contributions to bird conservation, including Audubon Florida’s Guy Bradley Award (2021) and the Wilson Ornithological Society’s Margaret Morse Nice medal (2018), given to individuals who “exemplify scientific curiosity, creativity and insight, concern for the education of young and amateur ornithologists, and leadership as an innovator and mentor”. He was married to Charlotte for twenty-nine years and together they parented Seth and Mei, of whom he was intensely proud. As a family, they explored landscapes (and food) wherever they went, from their own five acres in Highlands County to mountain trails in southeastern China. Reed consistently encouraged his children to actively pursue what they most loved to do. The family’s last gathering was for Mei’s college graduation, and he was incredibly happy to celebrate her accomplishments together.

Inspired by both grand vistas and intimate features of the natural world, Reed also developed a love of photography. His deliberate pursuit of beauty and mystery through his camera lens fed him spiritually and he continually planned his next photo shoots. He hoped his images would foster the public’s emotional connection to threatened landscapes and encourage a deeper appreciation for the diversity of life that he valued so much. Through their shared interest in the photographic process, Reed’s bond with his son grew deeper. He was thrilled to see Seth working as a professional photographer and felt immensely gratified knowing that his influence helped shape Seth’s direction. Reed was especially content and peaceful at his grandparents’ humble fishing cabin in the woods of northern Michigan, where he spent many satisfying weeks every year tying flies and fishing for trout, searching the forest floor for morels, picking wild blueberries, climbing dunes of Lake Michigan, hiking along the clear, cold streams of Manistee National Forest, and reveling in the life-long traditions and relationships he nurtured there. Some of his happiest moments came from sharing these experiences with family and friends. His family misses him profoundly—his purposeful presence, contagious curiosity, the countless dad jokes and food adventures, his ability to provide detailed information about a range of subjects, his many familiar and embellished stories, his desire to keep learning and sharing his knowledge, his motivation to explore new places, and his undeniable steadfast support.

As a recent retiree, he’d hoped to invest more time with family, including his two close siblings, Stacy Gates (David) and Todd (Keegan). Reed is also survived by in-laws, aunts, uncles, cousins, and many nieces and nephews throughout the country. He was grateful for his rich and rewarding life. He left us all too soon and will be missed beyond measure.


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