ARNOLD WILLIAM NORDEN

Photo of Arnold Norden  

Arnold, “Butch” to his friends and colleagues, was born on December 20, 1945, in Baltimore, Maryland. He grew up in the city, attending the local public schools. Despite spending his early life in an urbanized setting, he demonstrated a strong interest in natural history, an interest that was solidly supported and encouraged by his parents. At that time, Baltimore offered many things of interest to a budding naturalist, like the Baltimore Zoo, the old Maryland Academy of Sciences, and the Natural History Society of Maryland. In addition, searching fragments of undeveloped habitat near Fort McHenry and in other areas of south Baltimore still revealed such critters as leopard frogs, green snakes, five-lined skinks, and painted and box turtles. Later on, a ride to Catonsville on the last trolley line in Baltimore gave access to “big game,” milk snakes and copperheads in dens along railroad cuts above the Patapsco River. That was more than enough to keep Butch interested, and the snakes in the basement eventually led to a BS degree in biology in 1974, and an MS degree in ecology in 1978, both from Towson University.

His initial interest in biology was centered around reptiles and amphibians, and cold-blooded vertebrates continued to fascinate Butch throughout his undergraduate period. However, when the time came to choose a topic for his MS degree research, Butch shifted to aquatic invertebrates. That change resulted from the discovery of some large and interesting planarians in a spring in western Maryland. A subsequent trip to the Smithsonian Institution brought those specimens to the attention of Roman Kenk, who determined that they belonged to a species previously not known from anywhere near Maryland. Dr. Kenk suggested a survey of the freshwater triclad planarians of Maryland since very little was known about their distribution in the area, which became Butch’s MS degree thesis. Other Smithsonian zoologists who influenced Butch were Tom Bowman (aquatic isopods), Alexander Wetmore (fossil birds), Horton Hobbs (crayfish and entocytherid ostracods), and Karl Krombein (wasps and bees). The latter three scientists were active members of the Washington Biologists’ Field Club, and sparked an early interest in the Club and Plummers Island.

One day in 1984, when his wife Beth needed some quiet time to grade papers, it was suggested that Butch and the kids (Heather and John) go somewhere else for awhile. They explored a local clay quarry for dinosaur bones, and discovered a nearly intact femur of what later became Maryland’s official state dinosaur, Astrodon johnstoni. That femur, nearly five feet in length, turned out to be the largest dinosaur bone found in the Eastern United States (now housed in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History). His interest in fossils led to Butch being appointed in 1992 to the Governor’s Advisory Committee on Promoting Paleontology in Maryland.

Butch began his professional career as an ecologist with a civil engineering firm in Baltimore, developing environmental impact statements for major transportation and development projects. That position resulted in extensive experience with state and federal regulatory processes, with a scattering of practical engineering thrown in. In 1983, Butch left the private sector and accepted a position with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, new Maryland Natural Heritage Program. Butch now serves as central region chief of the resource planning unit for the Department of Natural Resources.

Butch has long been a member of the Natural History Society of Maryland, and served for many years as its vice president and a member of the board of trustees. Between 1930 and 1960, that organization published a fine local natural history journal. Butch always lamented its demise, and was responsible for its resurrection in 1987. From 1987 to 1999, he served as editor and full production staff for The Maryland Naturalist.

Butch was elected to membership in the Washington Biologists’ Field Club in 1994 and has served as chair of the house and grounds committee from 1997 to 2006 and on the board of managers from 2005 to 2006.

Photo of Arnold Norden