Thursday, June 04, 2009

Ornithology world loses L.A. icon Kenneth E. Stager

From Los Angeles Times:

Kenneth E. Stager, emeritus senior curator of ornithology and mammalogy at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, has died. He was 94.

Stager, a West Los Angeles resident, died of age-related causes May 13 at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, said his wife, Erika. [Below, he holds a wombat.]

"To me, it's like the end of an era in that he really personified the period during which the major collections of birds and mammals were amassed through expeditionary collecting," said Kimball Garrett, the museum's ornithology collections manager. ...

Stager's greatest and most enduring contribution to the museum and to the fields of ornithology and mammalogy, according to the museum, "was the substantial acceleration of expeditionary collecting work under his curatorial supervision."

He organized or participated in numerous major, privately sponsored expeditions, including trips to Barranca del Cobre and Islas Tres Marias, in Mexico; Queensland, Australia; Brazil; India; east Africa; Clipperton Island and the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific; and the Cocos Islands in the Indian Ocean.

During his 1958 trip to Clipperton Island, 800 miles southwest of Acapulco, Stager succeeded in eliminating the feral pigs that had devastated the tiny atoll and collected a specimen of the South American cuckoo bird (Coccyzus melacoryphus), which was the first to be taken in North America.

The specimens Stager collected during his heyday from the 1940s through the '70s have been invaluable to researchers, Garrett said.

"Many of the collections he made are in areas that have seen large-scale deforestation or other habitat change, and therefore, he's left us with a really irreplaceable record of how things used to be," Garrett said.
Thank you very much, Mr. Stager.

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