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Patuxent Wildlife Research Center


Ira N. Gabrielson

Ira N. Gabrielson was born on September 27, 1889, in rural Sioux Rapids, Iowa, the elder son to Scandinavian parents. He attended college in 1908 at Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa, where his bird photographs were noticed by Dr. T.C. Stephens, then the editor of the Wilson Bulletin. As written in Gabrielson's memoirs, "When I learned through Dr. Stephens there were actually jobs where people were paid for studying birds and mammals, I knew exactly what I wanted to do." This decision terminated financial support from his father who had intended for Gabrielson to attend law school. Gabrielson graduated in 1912 with a B.A. degree in Biology. Shortly after, he married his high school sweetheart, Clara Speer, with whom he raised four children and was married to for 65 years.

In 1912, Gabrielson taught biology, mathematics and agriculture at Marshalltown, Iowa and then accepted a graduate fellowship with the Bureau of Biological Survey at the University of Iowa. Through the advice of his advisors, Gabrielson accepted a job under W.L. McAtee at the bird food habits laboratory in Washington D.C. While working there over the next few years, Gabrielson was devoted to endless projects including: examining bird crops and stomachs, conducting a starling study, and conducting rodent control. He was the rodent control leader for the state of Oregon from 1918 to 1930 and in 1931 lead rodent and predator control programs for California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. In 1935 Gabrielson was asked to replace the Survey's Chief, "Ding" Darling after he resigned. In 1940 when the Survey and the Bureau of Fisheries were combined into the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Gabrielson became the Service's director until 1946. Gabrielson then became President of the Wildlife Management Institute, a position he held until 1970.

Among Gabrielson's many accomplishments, he was particularly proud of expanding the National Wildlife Refuge system, establishment of the Federal Aid to Wildlife Restoration and Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit programs, creation of Patuxent Wildlife Research Refuge, and the organization of a wildlife law enforcement team. Gabrielson also notably organized and served as president for the World Wildlife Fund, a trustee for the North American Wildlife Foundation and WWF, and as a chairman of the AOU's Committee on Bird Protection.

To learn more about Ira N. Gabrielson please visit: The Auk 102: 865-868. October 1985


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