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In Memoriam: Lester Rowntree, Environmental Scientist and Bay Nature Collaborator

Lester (The) Rowntree. (Photograph courtesy of Meg Conkey)

On Friday, August 30, Bay Nature misplaced a very good pal and the Bay Space misplaced a wonderful trainer of environmental science. Professor Lester Rowntree died at house within the Berkeley Hills after an extended battle with most cancers. Rowntree (or Les, as he most well-liked to be referred to as) was a longtime professor within the Division of Environmental Research on the College of San Jose, which he joined within the early 1970s. Earlier than retiring in 2005 He was then Program Director after which Chairman of the Board earlier than retiring. He was additionally a longtime pal and contributor to Bay Nature, serving as a mentor and scientific advisor to the fields of local weather science, climate and forest fires. His article on the atmospheric rivers ("When it rains, rolls") within the July 2015 problem of Bay Nature was an introduction to this idea then unknown to many readers and rapidly grew to become a extensively seen article on Baynature.org.

When it rains, it pours

Learn Les's clarification on the brand new science of atmospheric rivers, written within the midst of California's distinctive drought in 2013-2015.

It's not shocking that it will likely be the one who will current our
drives to an vital pure phenomenon resembling atmospheric rivers. It was
an excellent thinker, an inclusive and open-minded scientist who sought to
perceive, then educate others concerning the elemental forces that form the
bodily world. And he had a particular aptitude for making science in
an enchanting story that makes it comprehensible to us lay folks together with his
plenty of college students. Certainly, he would in all probability say that nothing offers him extra
pleasure to encourage his college students to grow to be scientists, to oversee them, after which
to allow them to go on this planet and watch them make a distinction.

I bought to know Les in early 2008, when Bay Nature was looking for a strategy to struggle local weather change. It had grow to be clear that we would have liked to handle this problem, however methods to adapt it to our region-centric mission? At this stage, a lot of the literature on local weather change handled impacts on a worldwide and continental scale. Which is vital, however not at a degree comparable to our native nature. It was at this level that Les proposed to function an off-the-cuff local weather advisor, and particularly on the comparatively current science of lowering the impacts of local weather change on the regional and native ranges. He launched us to among the new work on this space and a few of his practitioners within the San Francisco Bay Space. The outcome was a particular complement entitled "Taking the Warmth: Bay Space Ecosystems within the Age of Local weather Change" (January 2009), making Bay Nature one of many first common publications summarizing the scientific understanding of this significant matter.

The Radrownes and former Bay Nature editor Dan Rademacher hike Large Creek Reserve in 2008. (Photograph by David Loeb)

Shortly after, Les proposed an article to Bay Nature on the earlier spring.
devastating fires alongside the Large Sur coast. As a part of his analysis for this
historical past, he deliberate a one-night discipline go to to the realm, settling in
Large Creek Reserve south of Large Sur. (As a analysis affiliate at UC Berkeley,
They had been capable of finding lodging there.) Fortuitously, he invited me and
Dan Rademacher, then editor, to hitch him. It was a very good alternative to
let move, and thru this tour, I bought to know The – and the Large Sur coast – a
a lot better.

Cast by the fireplace

Learn Les concerning the penalties of the Large Certain Fireplace and the California Lightning Siege, a foretaste of forest hearth and local weather change conversations.

It was late April and spring was at its peak. Throughout our numerous hikes within the steep hills of the Los Padres Nationwide Forest, I used to be capable of observe Les in motion on the bottom for the primary time. At my first shock (and barely upset), he was unable to assist establish the actual species of wildflowers we noticed, and this didn’t significantly curiosity him. However whereas I used to be obsessive about particular person vegetation, he was on the lookout for – and declaring – the overall construction of the vegetation and the way it had modified in response to current fires. He was capable of confront what he noticed on earth within the current along with his prodigious reminiscence financial institution, accrued over a few years of exploration of the area (he had robust household roots within the area of Carmel / Large Sur), main and delicate adjustments within the panorama accordingly. Seeing this rugged and dynamic panorama by his eyes was a revelation. His subsequent article, "Cast by Fireplace," within the October 2009 problem of Bay Nature, is a masterful introduction to the science of forest fires within the California coast seashores, anchored within the private connection of Les with the magical shoreline of Large Sur, whereas opening up the bigger picture of the position of fireside within the formation of this panorama.

Les's long-standing connection to this area derives from
does that his well-known grandmother, the primary
Lester Rowntree, had settled within the Carmel Highlands within the 1920s after
to migrate from England as a younger girl. Given the celebrity of his grandmother and
legacy as one of many spawners of the native plant motion in California – a
self-taught botanist, she wrote two of the primary authoritarian remedies of
our native flora, the Californians Hardy (1935)
and flowering shrubs of California
(1936) – The locals used to establish themselves as the opposite Rowntree Lester. Certainly, he reveled within the confusion, as a result of
this allowed him to strengthen and renew his grandmother's legacy. In 2006,
supervised (and written an introduction to) the reissue of Hardy Californians, taking an excellent pleasure in the potential of
reintroduce his grandmother to a brand new era of California native vegetation
lovers and audiences treats up and down the state with tales of this
a ruthlessly impartial girl, idiosyncratic and defying conference.

The Rowntree. (Photograph courtesy of Meg Conkey)

The Rowntree himself didn’t take a straight line within the
environmental science discipline though he was within the pure world
from the start, maybe partly due to his grandmother. And that
actually not damage that he was born and grew up near nature on this
stunning a part of California the place the wild Pacific meets the rugged ridges and
canyons of the Santa Lucia mountains. His household moved to Berkeley early
1950s, the place Les attended Berkeley Excessive. However he continued to feed his love of
exterior by perfecting his climbing abilities within the Berkeley Hills and
Working nights and weekends within the pioneering outside gear retailer, The Ski Hut.

El Niño: Past the hype

Between 2015 and 2016, Les labored with Bay Nature on a sequence that went past the headlines of the El Niño "monster". He wrote plenty of tales himself and you’ll learn all of them right here.

He later acknowledged that he had failed academically
his early school years (within the late 1950s), being way more all in favour of
crusing, climbing, snowboarding and people music (with a quick detour by
inventory automotive) than at school research. On the finish, he accepted a proposal
an uncle to journey to Canada along with his cousins, maybe partly, to "discover
himself "venturing out." Again house, he discovered a tough draft
the opinion of the US army and was shipped to Germany after which in the midst of
the disaster of the Berlin Wall, the place he was assigned to the submit of journalist of the
Armed Forces Newspaper, Stars &
Scratches. He was lastly launched honorably as a conscientious objector,
however within the meantime his travels throughout Europe as a journalist have woke up his
curiosity within the ecology of the mountain within the Austrian Alps, a subject he has taken up
typically in his subsequent skilled life.

Throughout these years of labor and journey, Les has grow to be conscious of the rising fields of environmental geography and conservation biology. So as soon as out of the military, he returned to Carmel, labored part-time as a "hippie carpenter" in Large Sur, welcomed his daughter Erika to the world and enrolled within the state of San Jose to complete his bachelor's diploma. He was then accepted into the Geography Graduate Program of the College of Oregon, the place he targeted his research on the human and organic ecology of mountain ranges. He earned each a level and, what’s simply as vital, a treasure of tales from a previous summer season (along with his spouse and daughter) as a belvedere on the summit of a mountain within the wilds of southern Cascades.

After acquiring his doctorate in 1971 (with a thesis on the cultural and heritage panorama of Salzburg, Austria), he returned to the San Francisco Bay Space and was engaged, to his nice pleasure, to show the division of geography of the State of San José. The next yr, the state of San José created one of many nation's first environmental research departments. They finally transferred his place there and stayed till the tip of his educating profession. It’s a work of the entire lifetime of Les Rowntree. As a rigorous however empathic educator, he’s enthusiastic about his college students' understanding of the pure world, encourages them to pursue careers in science and makes use of their information to assist make the world a greater place.

After retiring from the state of San José in 2005, Les targeted on updating the extensively adopted and extensively adopted textbook on geography and environmental affect that had been revealed. in 2000 with Les as its principal writer and coordinating writer. The textual content is presently in its sixth version, with a seventh version of its lightened companion, Globalization and Variety.

As well as, he pursued his different pursuits (local weather, climate, forest fires, archeology, native vegetation, classical and people music), whereas getting nearer to his favourite college students and colleagues, taking lengthy walks in Tilden Park above from his house within the Berkeley Hills and spending extra time along with his spouse, Margaret Conkey, now Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at UC Berkeley, his two daughters and three grandchildren. Due to the caring care of his household, Les might die peacefully at his house, proper subsequent to an open door overlooking a again yard full of a few of his favourite California vegetation.