The University of Wyoming’s Biodiversity Institute was organized in 2012.
Published Nov. 10, 2013, in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, “Curiosity, generosity rewarded by UW’s Biodiversity Institute.”
2014 Update: Chris Madson continues to write at his blog, http://www.thelandethic.com. Many of the Dorns’ publications are available.
By Barb Gorges
It’s wonderful when friends are recognized for a lifetime of work they enjoy.
Last month, the Biodiversity Institute recognized Chris Madson of Cheyenne, and Jane and Robert Dorn, formerly of Cheyenne, now residing near Lingle.
The Biodiversity Institute, established in 2012, is a division of the University of Wyoming’s Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources. It “seeks to promote research, education, and outreach concerning the study of living organisms in Wyoming and beyond (www.wyomingbiodiversity.org).” This was the first year for what will be biannual awards.
Chris’s award for “Contributions to Wyoming Biodiversity Conservation,” highlights his 30 years as editor of Wyoming Wildlife, the magazine published by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. The week before the awards ceremony, he retired.
Each issue has been a compilation of the work of the best nature and outdoor photographers and writers, who were attracted to the prize-winning magazine. Judith Hosafros, longtime assistant editor, should also be credited for her attention to graphic details and proofreading that made it easy to read all these years.
Most subscribers turned to page 4 first, to read Chris’s monthly elucidation of issues or hosannas to nature, and then they looked for any articles he authored.
Getting in touch with Chris for what might have been a minute could turn into a conversation exploring a topic in nearly any field–not surprising for a man with degrees in biology, English, anthropology and wildlife.
Chris’s dad was also a writer and conservationist in Chris’s native state of Iowa. He remembers his dad interpreting the scenery on long car trips. When I spoke to two of Chris and Kathy’s three daughters at the awards, Erin and Ceara, they both mentioned long drives as favorite times with their dad.
Chris made Wyoming Wildlife much more inclusive than the typical hook and bullet publication—for instance, the October issue had three major non-game bird articles. Illuminating the conservation ethic was always uppermost for Chris, and that’s why he was nominated for this biodiversity award.
The Dorns received the Contributions to Biodiversity Science Award. Both Bob and Jane trained as scientists: Bob with a doctorate in botany, and Jane with a masters in zoology. They met in 1969 at UW, he coming from Minnesota and she from Rawlins. They have been a productive partnership ever since.
When Bob first started his studies at UW that year, he realized there was no single good plant guide for Wyoming and he set out to correct that, publishing “Vascular Plants of Wyoming” in 1977. It’s essentially a key he made for identifying hundreds of plants, based on his and many others’ research, and Jane has provided scientific illustrations for it. The third edition, still with a humble, plain brown paper cover, is available through UW’s Rocky Mountain Herbarium. It’s considered the bible by anyone working in botany in Wyoming.
Bob has had his own biological consulting business, working on clearances and inventories for threatened and endangered species, reclamation evaluations and wetland determinations. But he has continued to have scientific papers published, and other books. Many of his contracts called for inspecting remote areas and at this point, out of the 448 units he divided the state into back in 1969, he has botanically surveyed 445.
Jane is no slouch, botanically. Growing up, she spent a lot of time on her grandparents’ ranch and her parents impressed on her that everything has a name. I’m not sure it is possible to divide Bob and Jane’s joint interests in botany and birds, but when researching in the nation’s great scientific libraries, Jane tends to find the birds.
Having met them through the local Audubon chapter, Bob and Jane became my mentors when I first started writing this bird column in 1999. They put their research into two editions of their book, “Wyoming Birds.” Doug Faulkner continually credits them throughout his 2010 book, “Birds of Wyoming.” Jane wrote the chapter for him on the history of Wyoming ornithology and Bob wrote the chapter on landforms and vegetation.
While both books often save me from having to make phone calls, the Dorns’ book also has 70 pages of Wyoming birding hotspots and directions on how to get to them.
What Jane, Bob and Chris have in common is not only intelligence and education, but insatiable curiosity that has and will keep them going long after any official retirement; the afternoon before the awards ceremony on campus I found Bob doing research in the herbarium.
And they also share a huge spirit of generosity, making all of us, maybe unknowingly for many people, beneficiaries of their scientific and conservation passions.