ALFRED LUNT GARDNER
Photo of Alfred GardnerPhoto of Alfred Gardner


Al was born on November 10, 1937, a fraternal twin, in Salem, Massachusetts, to Waldo J. and Ruth L. Gardner. He spent early childhood through the third grade in Salem (on Gallows Hill). Miss Brennan, a third grade teacher and amateur ornithologist, kept a large glass case in the corner of her classroom, in which she displayed mounted songbirds. These specimens and Miss Brennan’s class outings to nearby marshes and fields sparked his initial interests in natural history. His family moved to a farm in North Andover, Massachusetts in 1947, where he practically lived in the woods fishing, hunting, and trapping. He spent the school year of 1948-49 in eastern Arizona, where he attended school in Duncan, rode horses, and stalked lizards, jackrabbits, and snakes in the desert. Primitive “indoor” plumbing, water from a windmill, and no electricity or telephone made for a simpler life. The summer of 1949 was spent in hills of Santa Monica, California learning first hand about California quail and poison oak. He returned to North Andover that year in time to start the seventh grade and a more serious hunting and trapping program. As a high school freshman he sold his first fur and learned to recognize the local game warden by sight at a distance sufficient to keep from being caught.

He moved with his family to Tucson, Arizona in 1953, where he decided not to attend high school and went to work in a supermarket. However, because his father demanded his pay check each week, he reconsidered the advantages of an education and entered high school, where he graduated in 1955. That year he joined the Army Reserves (24th Tank Battalion, 96th Infantry Division) in March, graduated high school in June, went through basic training in June (Fort Ord, California), armor summer camp (Camp Irwin, California) in August, enrolled in wildlife management at the University of Arizona in September, and shot his first white-tailed deer in November.

A shift in priorities came when he took a course in mammalogy in the fall of 1957 and learned to trap bats and rats and to prepare museum study skins. The next spring was spent working as a welder; however, on one outing he located a colony of bats, which stimulated an active bat banding program under E. Lendell Cockrum. The next year he went on his first scientific collecting trip to Mexico. Spring of 1959 found him going to school by day and welding at night, so when the opportunity came to return to Mexico in June, he jumped at the chance. He went to Mexico several times and amassed a large number of specimens, mainly bats. He thought it was fun work (when you forget the fleas, ticks, lice, mosquitoes, gnats, biting flies, bed bugs, malaria, and amoebic dysentery). Al returned to finish his senior year for a BS degree in 1961, followed by another year of collecting in Mexico. He started graduate school at the University of Arizona in 1963 and had his MS degree in Zoology by 1965. In 1965, he enrolled in graduate school at Louisiana State University. He spent the summers of 1966 and 1968 in an Indian village in eastern Peru, part of 1966 and 1967 in Costa Rica, and graduated with a PhD degree in zoology in August of 1970. After postdoctoral (M.D. Anderson Hospital and Tumor Institute, Houston, Texas) and professorship (Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, and Tulane University, New Orleans) positions he joined the Bird and Mammal Laboratory in the National Museum of Natural History (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) at the end of May 1973 where, except for field work in Alaska, Mexico, and Central and South America, he has been ever since.

Al is a member of several professional societies, an American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow, Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology Patron, Sociedad Mexicana de Historia Natural Numerario, and a recipient of the Hartley H. T. Jackson Award from the American Society of Mammalogists.

Al was elected to the Washington Biologists’ Field Club in 1977 and was very active as main fireplace cook, chairman of house and grounds, vice president, and president of the Club from 1998 to 2001.

 

Honorary Membership Nomination of Alfred L. Gardner

Presented at the 90thAnnual Meeting of the American Society of Mammalogists Laramie, Wyoming 11-25 June 2010

 

            Our 2010 nominee was born on 10 November 1937 in Salem, Massachusetts. His early introduction to natural history is attributed to a third grade teacher, who was an amateur ornithologist. She had a large glass-fronted case in her classroom that was filled with mounted birds and took her class on outings to nearby marshes and fields. When our nominee was 10 years old, his family moved to farm in North Andover, Massachusetts, where he practically lived in the woods, fishing, hunting, and trapping. For the next school year, our nominee lived in eastern Arizona where he rode horses and hunted lizards, snakes, jackrabbits and gold. During the summer of 1949, he spent time roaming the hills of southern California, sometimes learning the consequences of trekking through thickets of poison oak. He returned to Massachusetts to start the 7th grade and more serious hunting and trapping. As a freshman in high school, he sold his first fur and learned to recognize the local game warden at distances sufficient to avoid being caught. His family moved to Tucson, Arizona in 1953, where he dropped out of school and began working in a super market. Because his father demanded his paycheck each week, he soon became aware of the advantages of an education and returned to school. He graduated from high school in 1955, and in that same year got his drivers license, joined the Army Reserves (24th Tank Battalion, 96th Infantry Division), bought his first car (a 1941 Oldsmobile coup), enrolled in a wildlife management program at the University of Arizona, and shot his first white-tailed deer—quite an extraordinary year!
            His interest in mammals began in 1957 when he took a course in mammalogy at the University of Arizona. On weekends during that year, he explored the countryside and began banding bats that he found in caves and mines. The following summer, he worked for E. Lendell Cockrum, traveled around Arizona banded bats. During the academic year, he supported himself at night as a welder. He spent the next two years collecting mammals and birds in Mexico, and from these experiences realized that if he wanted to continue this way of life, he would need a Ph.D. He graduated with a B.S. in Wildlife Management from the University of Arizona in 1962 and returned the following year to collect birds and mammals in Mexico.
            Our nominee began graduate school in 1963 and was awarded a Masters degree in Zoology from the University of Arizona in 1965. He had already been a graduate student at the University of Arizona when he met Don Wilson, a mere undergraduate, and Jim Patton was a beginning graduate student. As Wilson notes, “he was my lab instructor when I took mammalogy and he basically taught me everything I know about mammals.” He actually taught Wilson how to identify bat skulls behind his back, by demonstrating how to feel for key characters. As Jim Patton notes, our nominee “taught me that ‘nothing was worth doing, unless you do it to your utmost capabilities.” Patton further notes that “anything that he may have achieved over the past four decades is primarily due to nominee’s influence on his ‘early’ life in mammalogy.”
            In 1970, our nominee fulfilled his dream of earning a Ph.D. in Zoology from Louisiana State University (LSU), under the guidance of George Lowery. His dissertation was on the taxonomy of the genus Didelphis in North and Middle America. In that same year, he presented his first paper at the now infamous Annual Meeting of ASM at Texas A&M, in College Station, where most of the attendees spent the evening fully clothed in the courtside swimming pool at a nearby motel. Following a postdoc with T.C. Hsu in the M.D. Anderson Hospital and Tumor Institute (currently the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center), our nominee was appointed for one semester as an assistant professor at LSU and then spent another year as an assistant professor at Tulane University. In 1973, he joined the Fish and Wildlife Service, Bird and Mammal Laboratory at the National Museum of Natural History.
            Our nominee has had a long and distinguished career in mammalogy. He published his first paper, as a note on a poorly known bat species in Arizona, the year John Kennedy was elected President. He began working in Mexico, and later Central and South America as a graduate student, well before most mammalogists began regularly visiting there. He was a pioneer in the use of chromosomes to study mammals, karyotyping his collections beginning in the late sixties. Since that time he has had papers appear in 40 of the intervening 50 years, a remarkable accomplishment given the vagaries of timing involved in publishing. In more than 150 papers and monographs, he has contributed greatly to the discipline of mammalogy and to the study of mammals, especially in the areas of taxonomy, systematics, wildlife biology, and in Neotropical research in general. He is a world authority on several groups of mammals, including small rodents, marsupials, and bats, as well as mammals of the New World.
            His papers continue to be carefully crafted studies that serve as models for the genre. He has named more than 19 mammal genera and species, a significant number among modern taxonomists. He is cited more than 3,000 times on Google Scholar. This is especially noteworthy because taxonomic works are for the most part not widely cited. He has contributed significantly to descriptions of new taxa, including two new species and two new genera of marsupial, nine new species of bats, and seven new species of rodents. His has been recognized through patronyms where he has a bat, two rodents, a mite, and two helminths named after him. The capstone of his career has been the publication of “Mammals of South America: Marsupials, xenarthrans, shrews, and bats”.
As curator and mammalogist with the U.S. Geological Survey, Division of Mammals, at the National Museum of Natural History, our nominee also has made and continues to make important contributions as a mentor to students and helping visitors to the Museum. He has taught extensively in field training courses supported by the Smithsonian Institution in the United States, and Rio Abiseo National Park, Peru, and sponsored and mentored a number of interns and students at the Smithsonian and at the University of Maryland. No student from Latin America has visited the Museum without spending hours in his office, listening and learning. He has the patience of a saint when dealing with students. He always has time for visitors of all ages, and has willingly shared specimens, ideas, and knowledge with all who visit here to work in the collection.
As curator of the U.S. National Collection of Mammals and Mammal Types, our nominee has had the opportunity to interact at high governmental levels where his counsel has influenced everything from national conservation initiatives and endangered species listings to scientific strategies for surveying and managing mammals at Federal and state levels, and in numerous foreign countries. Indeed, he has been honored five times by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with a Special Achievement Award. Five species and one subspecies have been named in his honor, which underscores his standing among his peers.
He has served the ASM in a unique capacity from a variety of different perspectives. He has been the Archivist for the society since 1993, and has been on the Nomenclature Committee since 1984 and was Chairman for seven years. He was on the Index Committee for 21 years. As one nominee noted, no one is a more complete authority on the rules of the International Code for Zoological Nomenclature. His 2004 publication, “A guide to constructing and understanding synonymies for Mammalian Species”, is recognized as the gold standard.
In summary, the discipline of mammalogy is a more powerful and distinguished discipline of science because of the numerous and diverse contributions that our nominee has made. His work on taxonomy, systematics, and Neotropical mammalogy, his service at the national level on all aspects of mammalogy, the outstanding research collections of birds and mammals he made in the U.S., Mexico and Central America, and his continuing contributions to the ASM clearly meet the criteria of Honorary Membership. Please join me in recognizing Alfred L. Gardner, a physical and intellectual giant among us, for his contributions to our discipline and Society.

Honorary Membership Committee

Tom Kunz, Chair
Guy Cameron
Bruce Patterson
Bob Timm

12 June 2010

Al Gardner