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Malcolm Coulter 1948 - 2013

Fern Davies

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Malcolm C. Coulter, 65, an internationally known ornithologist, died of health complications on Jan. 2, 2013 at his home in Chocorua, New Hampshire. A memorial service will be held later in the year.


Malcolm Coulter earned an MSc in 1973 from Oxford University and a PhD in 1977 from the University of Pennsylvania. He carried out early research on the Farallon Islands, California, on western gulls, storm petrels, and other birds as well as on the plants (population studies and control of invasives). Malcolm moved to the Darwin Research Center, Galapagos, Ecuador, where he established a long-term conservation effort for the dark-rumped petrel. As Resident Ornithologist, he studied blue-footed boobies, flamingos, flightless cormorants and Galapagos penguins.


Malcom C. Coulter
In 1984, he was invited to direct the American Wood Stork program at the University of Georgia’s Savannah River Ecology Laboratory. He directed this program for 10 years and became increasingly involved with the international conservation of storks, ibises and spoonbills. In 1989, he assumed co-chair of the SSC Storks, Ibises and Spoonbills Specialist Group and has concentrated his efforts on international conservation of these birds, working throughout the world but concentrating efforts in Asia. Species of great concern include the black-faced spoonbill, oriental white stork and oriental crested ibis.


Malcolm was an elective member of the American Ornithologists’ Union and has received awards from the Pacific Seabird Group, SAVE International, Waterbird Conservation for the Americas, and the Waterbird Society.


Malcolm Coulter will posthumously be granted the Pacific Seabird Group's Lifetime Achievement Award at the PSG's annual meeting later this month in Portland, Oregon. Fortunately, he had been informed in October that he was to be so honored.



We invite members of the ornithological community to share their memories of Malcolm by commenting on this post.

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  • 2 months later...

Helen Hays posted this wonderful piece by Malcolm on her Great Gull Island blog. I hope she doesn't mind that I am reposting it here:



Malcolm Coulter "Last testament", December 9, 2012

LIFE is the most wonderful thing in this world:  the most precious for people, pets, plants and for all.  If it weren’t for LIFE, none of us would exist.
I have been blest with the most wonderful life: the greatest, most caring and loving friends (and I hope I have been the same in return); the opportunity to work around the world; and, I hope to make some difference, in caring and for conservation and for the many people I tried to contribute to.
            I wish to especially thank the Millers for their support over so many years.  Kent, Kay and Peter have supported me through health issues and have been so very supportive.  Talby and Theo Page saved my life when I went into a coma by sending me to the hospital quickly.
There are four or more aspects of our lives that are most important:
            Honesty, Loving, Caring, Humor, . . .
            THERE ARE SO MANY WHO HAVE HELPED ME AND WHOM I CARE ABOUT:  Point Reyes Bird Observatory (The Farallon Islands: birds and plants; David Ainley); Bob Risebrough and the Antarctic; Pacific Seabird Group (Craig Harrison, Mark Rauzon, Dan Anderson, Lora Leschner, George Divoky, Pat Baird); Oxford (Chris Perrins, Martin Garnett; the footballs); Bob Ricklefs in my graduate career; Helen Hays at the American Museum of Natural History (Joe and Anne DiCostanzo; John Farrand, Ivy Kuspit and certainly Matthew Male) (Culver Williams and Fred); Marsha Sitnik and the Galapagos (David Duffy, Felipe Cruz, Linda Germany); Singapore (Polly & Peng); SREL stork project (Larry Brian, John Ogden, Jim Rodgers, and the precious stork crews); IUCN stork, ibis and spoonbill conservation (Wim van den Bossche); Xian (Oriental Crested Ibis: Xi Yongmei); Saint Catherine’s Island (Royce Hayes); Africa (Nathan and Cecilia Gichuki; Emil and Lois Urban); India (Asad Rhamani, Salim, Farrah, Mahesh, Hillol, Sunita and, of course, Prasanta, Malabika); ICF (George and Kyoko Archibald, Jim Harris, Su Liying, Steve) - but I should list the entire staff, especially Jeb, Claire, Betsy); China (Wang Qishan, Cao Lei, He Fengi); Thailand (Pilai Poonswad, Bubphar Amget); Taiwan; UC, Berkeley (SAVE) (Randy Hester, Marcia McNally, John Liu); Cambodia (WCS); Korea (Kim Souil, Sunyoung, Kyungwon); and my most caring group in Chocorua, NH (Gail, Garry, Deborah); as well my doctors (Rose, Goldenhar, and others).  Steve Hewes who has saved my computer so many times!!  My best neighbors, Alice Walylett as well as Barbara Lloyd.  And of course, not to forget so many others who are so dear!  Especially, Sylvia Blankenship who has been so nurturing, with very special feelings.  And so many others (individuals too many to mention but each but each so important) … I love you all ! 
And White Dog, my 17-year companion !!
            And my family: Jean, Dave, Holley, Douglas, Lena, Eliot, Holley, Douglas!
            It’s not what individuals can do but what we can all do together!
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  • 1 month later...

Malcolm C. Coulter, 1947 – 2013. Malcolm was unassuming and worked in the background, so it was only after he passed, when his friends and colleagues began to compare notes, that we realized the many lives and projects he had touched and encouraged.  Shortly before he died, he wrote: “It’s not what individuals can do but what we can all do together!”


Malcolm, a product of a comfortable Northern Virginia upbringing and New England boarding school, showed an early interest in animals, eventually focusing on birds. He went on to Stanford, took a master’s at Oxford, then did his Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania, studying Western Gulls on the Farallon Islands. While there he started a 40-year monitoring project on the islands’ vegetation, one of many such long-term projects unlikely to have a quick payoff but invaluable as the years went by. Healso spent time in Antarctica and Great Gull Island. The Darwin Station in Galapagos offered him a position to lead a conservation program for the Galapagos Petrel which was being threatened by introduced mammals. His budget was small and the logistics were challenging but he put together a team of both islanders and visitors that helped stem the decline of the species. He then went on to run a program at Savannah River National Lab in South Carolina, studying the endangered American Wood Stork. Again he put together a tightly knit team that worked under difficult field conditions that Malcolm characteristically never mentioned, but were the stuff of later stories by Birdville alumni. A growing interest in the conservation of storks and relatives led to him becoming co-chair of the Wetlands International/IUCN specialist group on storks, ibis and spoonbills. It was here that he came into his own. He moved to a small house in rural New Hampshire and used it as a base for visits to countries, particularly in Asia, with species that needed help.


Malcolm kept a very low profile. He mentored and financially sponsored young biologists and conservationists so they could build programs themselves. He would get flustered if he received attention for something, responding: “No, no that is really x’s work. I just gave some advice”. The specialist group grew to over 900 around the world. Like his Farallon plant work, his efforts were geared to the longer term and he seemed to have a great deal of patience as he watched programs grow or waited for them to germinate. His travels took him to interesting places, from the Amur River, to the Korean DMZ to small villages in Xian, China, even as his health began its slow decline. He worked with others in Singapore, Cambodia, Thailand, India and Africa. He helped Spoonbill Action Voluntary Echo (SAVE International), a multinational effort, bring the Black-faced Spoonbill back from the edge of extinction. Even when he couldn’t travel, he continued his long term participation in a range of committees, leading the Waterbird Society’s awards committee for years, and serving other groups such as the Pacific Seabird Group.


Ultimately, Malcolm’s life is best described as a 1,000 acts of kindness.


David Duffy, Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit, University of Hawaii Manoa, Honolulu HI 96822, USA






This announcement was originally posted on the Waterbird Society's website. View the full announcement.

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