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The Wall of the Dead: A Memorial to Fallen Naturalists

Posted by Richard Conniff on January 14, 2011

375 Responses to “The Wall of the Dead: A Memorial to Fallen Naturalists”

  1. There must be fascinating stories behind each of the naturalists in this list! I’m looking forward to reading your book.

  2. […] This brings me to a small proposal: We go to great lengths commemorating soldiers who have died fighting wars for their countries. Why not do the same for the naturalists who still sometimes give up everything in the effort to understand life? (Neither would diminish the sacrifice of the other. In fact, many early naturalists were also soldiers, or, like Darwin aboard H.M.S. Beagle, were embedded with military expeditions.) With that in mind, I constructed a very preliminary Naturalists’ Wall of the Dead for my book, “The Species Seekers,” to at least assemble the names in one place. (A version of it can be viewed here.) […]

  3. Chris said

    Michael Rockefeller 1938 -1961 – New Guinea, crocodiles or headhunters.

  4. Frenzel

  5. Andrew Stoehr said

    I think W.D. Hamilton deserves to be on the list. He died of malaria contracted in Africa while trying to investigate the origins of HIV.

  6. Jean-Michel Maes said

    Can add Frank Hovore, an entomologist of California, who died in expedition few years ago.

  7. Ryan said

    Yup, definitely WD Hamilton needs to be on the list, even if his death was the somewhat forseeable result of an old-ish man going into malarial jungles without taking anti-malarials. For what it’s worth, I got malaria (and dysentery, filariasis and giardia) while studying bonobos in the Congo in 2005, but fortunately I recovered from all!

    • Lisa Vawter said

      IMO not a fair characterization of Bill. Bill was way under-appreciated as a naturalist. Even though he was primarily a theorist, he hiked farther and climbed more trees in many more deserts, jungles and boreal forests than most any “real” naturalist I know. He had an incredible detailed knowledge of (mostly) insect behavior and ecology and was often able to point out new facts to the “experts” once they took him to their field sites.

    • David Duffy said

      he was only 63, what exactly is predictable about that? Not taking anti-malarials is another story.

  8. I understand that Linneus died from Chagas Disease, result of getting it in expeditions.

  9. Sorry my mistake, I was thinking in Darwin, not Linneus.

  10. Juan Aguirre said

    May I suggest Fernando Ortiz Crespo, Ecuadorian ornithologist who died studying birds in an Andean lake:
    I quote from the Hummer Notes webpage:

    “on 12 September 2001, our beloved Fernando drowned in a boating accident which claimed two other lives on Lake Micacocha high on Mount Antisana outside Quito, Ecuador. They were studying the birds of the lake.”
    fulll note at:
    More about him in:

  11. Jane Coffey said

    Joseph Brunete – one of the two botanical artists on the Spanish Expedición Botánica of 1777-1788 to South America. He died from a fall from his burro while out in the field. He was buried in Pasco, Peru.

  12. Christopher said

    When I was a student at University of Kansas, I remember a young woman, Shannon Martin, was murdered while studying ferns in Costa Rica. She was too young to have been famous, which makes it all the more tragic. Here’s a link to a related news article:

  13. Gary Polis (arachnologist) –

    Worth Hamilton Weller (herpetologist) –

  14. Karl P. Schmidt (herpetologist) – Boomslang bite –

  15. pomposa said

    I think ornithologist Phoebe Snetsinger qualifies for your list (she died in a car crash on a birding trip to Madagascar in 1999). She was far more than a just a twitcher; her field notes have proved to be an invaluable aid in studying species/sub-species distribution. Many of the birds she identified have been reclassified as full species.

  16. Ariadne Angulo said

    Two great colleagues come to mind:

    Brazilian herpetologist Adão J. Cardoso died in a car accident on a herping trip (and see for details on Adão)


    Peruvian ichthyologist Fonchii Chang, who drowned in an expedition to the Pastaza River Basin when her boat capsized.

  17. Paul Sweet said

    Sam Veasna, Cambodian Ornithologist died in 1999 at the age of 33 of malaria during field work.

  18. Eugenia said

    I would certainly add the famous limnologist Peter Kilham (1943-1989), who suddenly died of perforated ulcera during a research trip in Kenya. He was a Professor at the University of Michigan, and an expert in phytoplankton ecology and in the ecology of African lakes.
    I have never had the chance to know him, but my PhD advisor, his wife Susan Kilham, always delighted me with the wonderful stories of their adventures during the field work in Africa.
    He certainly deserves to be included in your list.

  19. Eugenia said

    Shigeru Nakano (1962-2000) who died in Baja California on the same boat accident who killed the scorpion ecologist Gary Polis. Dr. Nakano was an excellent aquatic ecologist studying food webs.
    I would also include the other scientists that died in the same boat accident: Takuya Abe and Masahiko Higashi professors from the University of Kyoto, and the post-doc researcher Michael Rose.

  20. Nicholas Cohen said

    What about Dian Fossey?

  21. Erik said

    Dian Fossey (1932-1985).

    Prominent zoologist and conservationist. Considered one of the world’s foremost primatologists (Mountain Gorillas) while she was alive. Found murdered in her cabin in Virunga Mountains, Rwanda (case unsolved).

    • Ryan said

      This really brings up some interesting ideas about who deserves to be memorialized. She was certainly brave and important for our understanding of mountain gorilla behavior (though not really for running expeditions to discover new species or do general ecology). But the bigger point is that *everyone* in the primatology community knew she wasn’t mentally stable enough to work in Central Africa and they tried very, very hard to keep her in America, finding her good positions, etc. She eventually went back, kidnapped villagers’ children and was, unsurprisingly, found murdered. Sad, but completely a result of her own actions (actions that many people around her knew were leading inevitably to her death). I still think she deserves on the list, but it is such an interesting story and not nearly so one-sided as people assume. In my career, I’ve worked closely with some of Fossey’s closest associates in primatology from when she was alive, so I’ve gotten some interesting information.

      • Not all saints on this list, that’s for sure.

      • Mike Quinn said

        Diane’s dedication was a *great* inspiration to me. I full think she should be included on a “Naturalists’ Wall of the Dead”…

      • Ryan said

        Certainly she deserves to be on this list — it’s more of a statement of the interesting, dynamic and morally nuanced lives many naturalists live. It’s sad that hers involved so much direct confrontation with the local people so necessary for successful conservation, but her life paved the way for training of primatologists with much better tools to successfully negotiate the difficult tightrope walk between working to change local peoples’ attitudes and actions towards nature while respecting those peoples’ traditions and values as well. And she did pave the way with the mountain gorillas.

      • Just for the record, Ryan, Dian’s confrontations with ‘local people’ were mainly with poachers and corrupt officials. The local people she hired as camp staff and trackers she treated as if they were her extended family, paying their medical bills, teaching them to read and write, buying them gifts and even, on one occasion, delivering one of their babies! Those who are still with us are extremely loyal to her memory.

  22. Dian Fossey?

  23. Richard –

    Outstanding project and much needed. I was on a biodiversity expedition in Papua New Guinea when I learned of the deaths of good friends Al Gentry and Ted Parker; needless to say, I was absolutely stunned.

    I would nominate Bolivian botanist Elias Meneses, who died of falsiparum malaria contracted in Pando Department (Bolivia) while collecting tree specimens. He collected several new species of trees before dying in 1979 at approximately 50 years of age.

    Saludos, Gary

  24. Lynne said

    Suggest Dr Clive Marsh, field biologist who was instrumental in establishing the Tana River Primate Reserve in Kenya and the Danum Valley Conservation Area in Sabah, 49, 1951-2000, from an encephalitis-related illness obtained during field work in Laos. Dr Marsh fell into a coma in February and died in October. Here is a link to read more:

  25. I’m surprised no one has mentioned Steve Irwin yet. I’m leaning toward saying he doesn’t belong on the list, classifying him as entertainer rather researcher. On the other hand, he was an ardent conservationist and dedicated his life to education and conservation…and died doing it. He was an amateur, certainly, but there’s a long tradition of legitimate scientific contribution and excellence by amateur naturalists far from the ivory towers. Again, I probably wouldn’t add him, but it’s food for thought.

  26. Cal Qualset said

    Frank Meyer—lost in China during plant collection expedition. Circumstances of death not known. See Isabel Cunningham’s biography of Meyer.
    Cal Qualset

  27. Maureen A. Donnelly said

    What about Ken Miyata — he died while fly-fishing. Big frog biologist in Ecuador?

  28. Maureen A. Donnelly said

    he died in the US but worked in South America — mostly in Ecuador. Wrote Tropical Nature with Adrian Forsyth.

  29. Joseph Louis Conrad Kirouac, known as Brother Marie-Victorin. Founder of the Botanical Garden in Montréal. Educator and author of a major Flora for the southern region of the Province of Québec, Canada. Died in a car accident on a plant collecting trip. Please see this Wiki:

  30. Marc said

    Simon Thirgood (, vertebrate ecologist and conservation biologist. He died in a storm in Ethiopia.

  31. Gail M. Gerhart said

    Thank you for listing my son, Nathaniel Gerhart (please note correct spelling. 1975–2007 is correct). He rediscovered the selva cacique (thought to be extinct) in 1998 in Peru. He died in a road accident while studying rain forest conservation in Indonesia.

  32. Walter Egler, Brazilian, Amazon zoologist, drowned during an expedition
    George Black (1916-1957), U.S.-born, Amazon botanist, drowned during an expedition
    Hermógenes de Freitas Leitão Filho, Brazilian botanist, died of a heart attack in the field.
    You might check your info on Georg (not George) Markgraf, who although he was a pioneering naturalist in Brazil actually died in Angola, from what I have read.
    Noel Kempff Mercado (1924-1986), Bolivian biologist, was scouting out a new national park in Santa Cruz department when his group landed at what they thought was an abandoned airstrip but turned out to be a cocaine factory. He was murdered, and the national park was subsequently named for him.
    Are you familiar with Ralph Stewart’s article, “How did they die?” see link

  33. Maureen A. Donnelly said

    I am not sure that Bob Denno named species but he was an amazing entomologist. He died collecting butterflies in Georgia a couple of years ago.

  34. John Lawson (1674-1711), British-born early naturalist in North America, burned at the stake by angry locals. see J. Kastner, “A Species of Eternity”

  35. Mike Quinn said

    Thomas Drummond, naturalist (ca. 1790-1835)
    He collected 750 species of plants and 150 specimens of birds, a feat that stimulated the later studies of such botanical collectors as Ferdinand Jacob Lindheimer and Charles Wright. Drummond had hoped to make a complete botanical survey of Texas, but he died in Havana, Cuba, in March 1835, while making a collecting tour of that island.

  36. Stan said

    Dr. Dennis M. Devaney of the Bernice P. Bishop Museum died in a scuba-diving accident on August 13, 1983, as he was investigating shrimp offshore from the Big Island of Hawaii.

    Dennis M. Devaney, 1938-1983, was invertebrate zoologist at Bishop Museum. He was a specialist on ophiuroids, and disappeared on a dive collecting trip at north end of the island of Hawaii. Several species and the genus Devania are named for him […]. (Dr. Lucius Eldredge, Bishop Museum, kindly provided this information).

  37. Fabian Michelangeli said

    Pehr Löfling (31 January 1729 – 22 February 1756) was a student of Linnaeus, and died during an expedition to what is now Venezuela. The cause of death is debated, but seems to have been either malaria or yellow fever. Löefling is believed to be the first person to bring a microscope to Venezuela, and the first naturalist to make careful observations about the flora and fauna of the country. Linnaeus later published the Iter Hispanicum based on Löfling’s notes.

  38. Kelsey Reider said

    Pablo Barbadillo was a young and very enthusiastic Spanish biologist who died in 2008 while doing his doctoral dissertation field work in Amazonian Peru. He was based at the Los Amigos Biological Station (CICRA)in the Madre de Dios department, and he was studying the populations of large reptiles and how humans interacted with them. He left CICRA for a few days in mid April to survey the reptiles and people near a small town upriver on the Madre de Dios and did not return. CICRA staff and regional police found his body many days later and the cause of death was never, to my knowledge, determined. Here are news articles about it:

  39. Henk van der Werff said

    Charles Budd Robinson,1871-1913, a botanist, killed by natives while collecting plants on Ambon.
    Andrew M. Field (1955-1984), an ecologist; fell from a tree while conducting canopy research.

  40. Gregg Gorton said

    A couple of other worthy additions to the list for your consideration:

    James R. Silliman, Ph.D., ornithologist and ecologist (195?-1983), graduate of the University of Arizona – best known for his ornithological work in Nicaragua, killed in a car accident in Leon, Nicaragua in early 1983.

    Waldron DeWitt Miller (1879-1929), ornithologist, Associate Curator of Birds at the American Museum of Natural History, who was killed in a motorcycle accident just before completing a full account of the birds of Nicaragua that was to be coauthored with Ludlow Griscom of the American Museum of Natural History.


    Also: A Memorial by James Chapin in AUK, vol. XLIX, Jan., 1931

  41. james said

    Mia Tegner was an excellent marine ecologist who studied kelp forests in California. She died while scuba diving:

  42. Alan Parnass said

    Wildlife Conservation Loses Ardent Defender
    Ian Ross
    Son, brother, uncle, friend.
    Wildlife biologist.
    Born December 16, 1958 in Goderich, Ontario.
    Died June 29, 2003, age 44, near Nanyuki, Kenya in a light aircraft accident while radio tracking lions for
    the Laikipia Predator Project.

    Also the pilot who died along with Ian was an American who volunteered his time and the airplane to support research projects like Ian’s. Can’t remember his name.

  43. James Solomon said

    Josiah Gregg (1806-1850), author of “Commerce of the Prairies” (1844), merchant, plant collector, explorer, physician.

    “After the end of the expedition in the summer of 1849 Gregg sailed for San Francisco, left his field notes with Jesse Sutton, who had settled there, and joined in the gold rush to the mother-lode country. In October he led an exploring party through the uncharted redwood forests and discovered Humboldt Bay. The party named the Van Duzen and Eel rivers and other familiar landmarks in that area. On the return trip to San Francisco the group split into two, Gregg’s division turning inland to Clear Lake. Exhausted from vigorous travel, near-starvation, and continuous exposure to severe weather, Gregg died on February 25, 1850, as a result of a fall from his horse, and was buried near the lake.” Quote from Gregg article by H. Allen Anderson at the Texas State Historical Association web site,

  44. Richard,

    You should also add David Smith, one of the finest botanists I ever met. David worked for the Missouri Botanical Gardens and had nearly completed an amazing flora of the eastern Andes when he died Feb 7, 1991 from a leg infection picked up on a field expedition ( David and I worked together in the Chapare region of Bolivia, and barely survived a very mis-timed encounter with coca producers there (during which David barely flinched). A classic field biologist whose encyclopedic knowledge of Andean flora is now sadly lost to the world.

  45. Dietmar Schwarz said

    Another good entry would be Georg Wilhelm Steller, namesake to many species in the Northern Pacific region. Died from a fever in Siberia.

  46. Great post!
    You should include Marco Antonio Serna. Naturalist and Ornithologist. Colombian. 1936 – 1991. Died in the field in the Colombian Magdalena & Cauca valleys lowlands while doing fieldwork (looking for to collecting specifically specimens of the hard-to-catch Little Tinamou for the museum [that he created] of Natural History at San Jose de la Salle school where we was professor also). Marco Antonio Serna was funder of the local Antioquia Ornithological Society (SAO) where a grant fund was just established in his honor ( A neat video of Ramon Cadavid (field partner of collecting expeditions of Marco Antonio) narrating the trip when Marco Antonio died is available at (only Spanish)

  47. Luisa said

    I would like to nominate the legendary California field ornithologist and conservationist Michael San Miguel (1939-2010), who died last July while conducting an owl survey in the San Gabiels: an environmental survey in Angeles National Forest for a SoCal Edison transmission project. Heartbreaking obit here, written by another great California ornithologist, Kimball Garrett:

    An appreciation from eBird:

    And more from the Los Angeles Times:,0,1643002.story

  48. Chris said

    Try Margaret Mee, 1909 – 1988

  49. machel malay said

    Leonardo Co was born in 1953.

  50. Benito C. Tan said

    Dear Richard,

    Thanks for including the report of the tragic and untimely death of Mr. Leonardo Co in the Philippines in 2010. Mr. Co is probably the only unfortunate one in the botanical history of the Philippines who died by being gunned down by reckless soldiers in the field who took the group of plant collectors as members of the underground rebels of the Philippine Communist Party without asking first for the identity.

    Here is his birth and dead dates of Mr. Co for your record documentation.

    Mr. Leonardo Co (Dec 29, 1953 – Nov. 15, 2010).

  51. Jim Wetterer said

    Roy R. Snelling (1934-2008) Hymenopterist. He died in Kenya on an ant collecting trip.

  52. John Payne said

    Louis Aggasiz Fuertes (1874 – 1927), one of the most influential naturalists and painters of his day. There is a Wikipedia page with links to his art at He participated in many expeditions to remote places, including the Harriman expedition to Alaska, several trips in Central and South America, and a major expedition to Abyssinia (Ethiopia). He was killed at the age of 53 by a train that struck his car at a crossing near his home town of Ithaca, NY.

  53. Hans Nooteboom said

    Geoffrey Howorth Spencer Wood (1927, Vowchurch, Hereforshire, England; Forest botanist in Sandakan (N. Borneo or Sabah)died May 6,Kuala Belait, N. Borneo while preparing his collections and pouring alcohol over them too near to the campfire. He burned to dead. One of his helpers caried him to civilation, but too late.

  54. Humayun Taher said

    Jean Pierre Armand David (1826 – 1900) also known as Père David deserves a mention here. He was a French Missionary worker who did extensive work in China. In fact, the famous Père David’s Deer in England are a direct result of his works.

  55. Thank you all for these suggestions, most of which I have now added to the list. I have omitted Charles Darwin, Armand David, Margaret Mee, and Louis Aggasiz Fuertes because, while undoubtedly admirable and important, all died at home at a natural age, if not of natural causes.

    I have omitted Steve Irwin because so much of his work was about getting in the faces of animals, rather than watching and learning from them.

    • Melanie Bond said

      I thought Margaret Mee was killed in a traffic accident in England. I remember thinking that she survived all those trips up the Amazon, only to be killed in the UK. Wikipedia says “Margaret Mee died following a car crash in Seagrave, Leicestershire on 30 November 1988. She was 79 years old. In January 1989 a memorial to her life, botanical work and environmental campaigning took place in Kew Gardens.” I heard her speak at the Smithsonian, and I think she fits your criteria.

  56. Andy Kratter said

    David Gaines (1947-1988) , who studied birds in the Sierra Nevada, should be added. He was the main impetus behind saving Mono Lake from SoCal’s unquenchable desire for water. He is author of The Birds of the Yosemite and the East Slope. He died in a car accident near Mono Lake. A good biography is at

    Also, Joe Slowinski was the Curator of Herpetology at the California Academy of Sciences when he died.

  57. Ian Swift said

    J. Linsley Gressitt, 1914-1982, entomologist, died in a plane crash in China

  58. Andrea Worthington said

    I am touched by this list of naturalists.
    Please add
    Robert Silberglied (1946-1982)
    He was an entomologist, field biologist, Associate professor and Curator of Lepidoptera at Harvard, Researcher at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in residence at Barro Colorado Island, Panama, and did field work in the US, Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, Colombia. One of his specialities was matching larvae to adult tropical butterflies by raising them up. He died in the Air Florida accident in Washington DC in January 1982.

  59. Kevin Baldwin said

    I seem to recall a female grad student who was working at a field station in eastern California during the mid-1990’s, who contracted Hanta virus and died. Can’t remember her name. Maybe this note will jog some memories,…

    Minor corrections: Shannon Martin was at the University of Kansas, not Kansas University. Michael San Miguel likely died in the San Gabriel Mtns. (not Gabiel).

    Thanks for initiating this project!

  60. Jim Wetterer said

    Inn-Siang Ooi was a PhD student in botany at University of Miami from Malaysia who died at age 24 of stings from Africanized honey bees during an OTS field course in Costa Rica in 1986.

  61. Haroldo C. de Lima said

    Can add Walter Egler, a brazilian botanist, who died tragically during an expedition to Jauarí River, Pará, in 1961.

  62. Annie Ray said

    C. V. Riley was among the most famous entomologists in US History. He was responsible for implementing biological control for citrus scale in California, rescuing the fledgling citrus industry there. He was also awarded the French Legion of Honor for “saving” the European wine industry from phylloxera.

    “On September 14, 1895 Riley died in a fatal bicycle accident. As he was riding rapidly down a hill, the bicycle wheel struck a granite paving block dropped by a wagon. He catapulted to the pavement and fractured his skull. He was carried home on a wagon and never regained consciousness. He died at his home the same day at the age of 52, leaving his wife with six children.”–direct quote from Wikipedia, and the information is, as far as I know, true.

  63. jonas said

    Rocky Spencer, killed by a helicopter rotor while radio collaring big horned sheep in Washington State

  64. John Karges said

    J. Stuart Rowley, an ornithologist and vertebrate specimen collector in the 1960s perhaps associated with the Univ. California at Berkeley,
    Wrote an account of breeding birds of the Sierra Madre del Sur, Oaxaca, Mexico, in 1966 and was well known for his mammal and other vertebrate specimen collections for US museums. I had heard through the museum community that he was found murdered, the attached obituary lists the 1968 date of death but I could find no other details on his life or passing.

    • John Karges said

      Charles Bogert (1968, AMNH Novitates #2341) described the snake Bothrops rowleyi (now Bothriechis rowleyi) in 1968, the year of Rowley’s death with the annotation that “Mr. Rowley was killed when he fell from a cliff in the Sierra de Cuatro Venados in May, 1968, while this account was in press” and Bogert acknowledged much of Rowley’s endeavors with vertebrate research in southern Oaxaca and the Isthmus of Tehauntepec, Mexico.

  65. Herpetologist Joe Slowinski must be on this list. Killed on 9/11/2001. By a misidentified krait in an expedition to Burma:

    And Prince Ruspoli, who gave his name to one of world’s most beautiful, threatened and rare birds, the Ethiopian endemic Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco, whose first specimen was found in the prince’s hunting bag after he was trampled to death by an elephant

    Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco (Vulnerable), is a macaw-sized bird with scarlet and navy-blue wings, long tail and green-and-white head. It was first discovered among the personal effects of Prince Ruspoli after he was crushed to death by an elephant in 1893. As the unfortunate nobleman had not had time to label the specimen, its origins remained a mystery for half a century before the species was seen in the wild by an English naturalist in southern Ethiopia.

  66. Mike Quinn said

    Charles Valentine Riley (1843-1895), one of the greatest North American entomologists who ever lived, dieds of a fatal bicycle accident at 52.

  67. […] of naturalists who lost their lives in the cause of discovery and I have been adding them to the Wall of the Dead.  This one, suggested by reader Cagan Sekercioglu in Utah, caught my […]

  68. Jeff Humphries said

    Worth Hamilton Weller (1913-1931), at the age of 18 fell off a cliff on Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina while collecting specimens of a newly discovered salamander (Weller’s Salamander, Plethodon welleri).

  69. Max Barclay said

    Hi- my comments don’t seem to have come up, they were

    Frederik Adolph de Roepstorff 1842 – 1883; entomologist, ornithologist and anthropologist; shot dead in the Andaman Islands

    Stanislav Becvar senior, shot by soldiers in Laos while collecting beetles

    ?Joy and George Adamson (lions: Africa; Murdered)

    There were two others- a Czech beetle person who died quietly under a tree in Indochina in the last couple of years, and a German moth expert who died in a car smash in Thailand about 10 years ago while collecting.

    Also, is Captain Cook eligible??

    Fantastic idea, Good luck

    • Neal Evenhuis said

      I see Captain Cook listed but he was not really the naturalist on board during his three voyages into the Pacific – an explorer yes, naturalist, not really. Banks, Solander, Forster were the naturalists who disembarked to collect. Cpt. Jim did the bargaining at the shoreline.

  70. Paul White said

    Robert Mertens, 1894-1975. Herpetologist. Did a lot of work with lizards. Died at old age of a twig snake bite.

  71. Gail M. Gerhart said

    Nathaniel Gerhart: please don’t describe him as a “birdwatcher”–he was a serious ornithologist. Thanks.

    Phoebe Snetsinger: there is a book about her, “Life List” by Olivia Gentile, in addition to her own autobiography, “Birding on Borrowed Time”.

  72. Guy Webster said

    A tribute to these dedicated researchers is a great idea. I thought immediately of Rick Seegmiller, a graduate student who perished in 1983 while studying bighorn sheep in the Harquahala Mountains of Arizona, shortly after I met him. Looking up reference information to provide more details, I learned that the University of Arizona already has a memorial garden “dedicated to those who have lost their lives working for Arizona’s wildlife resources.” A Web page about the garden, at, offers information about Seegmiller and six other men. Most of them died during wildlife management activities (game surveys, emergency feeding sorties, etc.), but Rick was conducting more basic ecological research. Here’s the statement about him from the memorial garden’s site:
    Richard (Rick) F. Seegmiller. Ph.D. candidate. Rick was a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Arizona’s School of Renewable Natural Resources, studying desert bighorn sheep in the Harquahala Mountains near Salome. The 31-yr old had previously completed his Bachelor of Science degree in wildlife management and a Masters of Science in Zoology at Arizona State University. He was already well published and respected on the ecology of desert ungulates, particularly bighorn sheep. Rick died on February 6, 1983 in a small plane crash in the Harquahala Mountains when he was radiotracking the collared sheep. The pilot and another observer on the flight escaped fatal injury in the crash.

  73. Rich Reaves said

    Erwin Evert definitely needs to be on your list.

    “Erwin F. Evert (2/13/1940 – 6/17/2010), had a “fatal encounter with a grizzly bear” June 17, 2010, while on his daily botanical walk in the Shoshone National Forest oy Wyoming. He spent nearly 40 years botanizing in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem and found five new species of plants. SHortly before his death, Mr. Erwin published Vascular Plants of the Greater Yellowstone Area: An Annotated Catalog and Atlas.

    You can get more details on this man at:
    or from the fall 2010 CAstilleja, the newsletter of the Wyoming Native Plant Society

  74. Ronald Pine said

    Richard G. Van Gelder. Mammalogist at American Museum of Natural History. Died fairly young and in the US I believe. He got falciparum malaria from being in the field in Kenya. He told me that he reckoned he got it at “Treetops.” I’ve heard that his eventual death was brought on by the ongoing effects of the malaria. I can’t vouch for the accuracy of that statement but if you can’t find anything easily online about this, I can ask some people who should know. Also a guy named A. (Abel?) Fornes, an Argentine mammalogist who died young from hydrocyanic gas in a well in which he was trying to kill, by use of the gas, a colony of vampire bats. His gas mask leaked. Again, if you can’t easily find anything on this, let me know and I’ll try to ask around.

  75. Arthur O. Tucker said

    Timothy Plowman (1944-1989), monographer of the genus Erythroxylum and eminent Amazonian ethnobotanist stationed at the Field Museum in Chicago, died of AIDS received as a result of “pre-trip inoculations.” Wade Davis has written much about him. Stories circulate among botanists that a dirty needle was used at the border of Venezuela, others insist it was Peru, in a forced yellow fever inoculation, but beyond “pre-trip inoculations,” nothing else can be certified from published sources.

    Tom E. Lockwood (1941-1975), monographer of the genus Brugmansia and Professor of Botany at the University of Illinois-Urbana, died during of an auto accident in Mexico during a field trip with students.

    Both were students of Schultes at Harvard.

  76. John Rotenberry said

    I’d like to nominate two colleagues, Dick Fitzner and Les Eberhardt, wildlife ecologists who died in a plane crash in the Columbian Basin while doing aerial radio-telemetry surveys. Link to a memorium published by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, for whom they both worked as environmental scientists:

    The Fitzner-Eberhardt Arid Lands Ecology Reserve, part of the Hanford Reach National Monument, is named in their honor:

  77. Jim Hayward said

    Thank you for this list, a very nice tribute to those who have died in the line of service.

    Please make one correction. On June 3, 1992, Dick Fitzner, died in a plane crash while studying Sage Grouse. He was an employee of Battelle Pacific Northwest Laboratories and was under contract with the U.S. Army. The accident occurred atop Yakima Ridge, Northeast of Yakima, Washington, in the Army’s Yakima Firing Center, not in the Amazon as noted in the “Wall of the Dead”. Dick was 45 years old. He preceded me as a Ph.D. student under Don E. Miller at Washington State University. See the following reports:

  78. […] column, of naturalists who died in the course of discovery. The several dozen additions to The Wall of the Dead include an Italian prince who was trampled to death by an enraged elephant (but discovered one of […]

  79. John M said

    Johann Baptist Ritter von Spix died of schistosomiasis contracted in S. America. The Spix macaw is named for him.

  80. Jeff Chemnick said

    Leo Schibli (1958-2004) of SERBO in Oaxaca involved with scores of botanical field trips to survey the flora of Oaxaca and consequently discovered several new species of plants including cycads and orchids died of a heart attack at the age of 46.

  81. tinyfrogs said

    I don’t know the name, but sometime in the mid or late 1990’s (1997?) a graduate student studying at Palo Verde Biological Station in Costa Rica was killed by a swarm of Africanized bees. They told us all about it when we visited as undergraduates in 1998.

    Quick google search did not produce a name.

    • Mike Quinn said

      This was Inn Siang Ooi, a botany student from the University of Miami. In 1986, he was on a steep Costa Rican hillside when he encountered a large, exposed nest of Africanized bees. He fell or climbed into a crevice and became stuck. Three rescuers trying to reach him were stung so badly they collapsed. Ooi’s body was retrieved after dark, when the bees returned to their nest. He had been stung 8,000 times, an average of seven stings per square centimeter.

      Winston, M.L. 1992. Killer Bees: The Africanized Honey Bee in the Americas. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass.
      Pg 51.

      Excerpts from the local Miami paper:

      UM Student Dead
      Attacked By Bees While In Costa Rica
      August 09, 1986|By JEAN THOMPSON, Sun Sentinel, Miami Bureau

      The student, Inn-Siang Ooi, 24, who was on a study excursion was stung to death July 31 by a swarm of the fierce bees while he explored a rocky, cave- filled hillside at a wildlife refuge 150 miles northwest of San Jose.

      An autopsy performed in San Jose determined that Ooi suffered about 46 bee stings per square inch of his body. Doctors there called it the first death in Costa Rica caused by a bee attack.

      Ooi [was] a graduate of Knox College in Illinois…

      “His plan was to be involved in environmental research and improved agricultural development in Malaysia after getting his degree,” Savage said.

  82. Wes said

    Although his body was never found, Percy Harrison Fawcett, the famous British explorer who disappeared in the Amazon in the early 20th century could be a good addition to this list.

  83. Neal Evenhuis said

    This is an excellent website and way overdue. I had been independently collecting names of entomologists who died unnatural deaths and had recently expanded that to include all naturalists. A small portion of these have been published (just those entomologists who died researching flies) as I herewith supply a link to the pages of that pdf file. I have another 100 names — many of which are in addition to those persons listed here, but as such, the list is too lengthy to post all with all their stories. Let me know how to get these files to you. <a href=";

  84. Another figure to add to your impressive list is Friedrich Sellow (1789-1831), who gathered important materials in Brazil, most especially as a botanist and zoologist. He drowned crossing a river in Brazil during the conduct of his work, leaving rich collections at Berlin and Vienna.

  85. Gabriel Aguirre said

    How about Reginald Farrer?

  86. Nike Doggart said

    I propose Jan Kielland.
    Jan Kielland 1923 – 1995, author of Butterflies of Tanzania, spent 50 years studying butterflies across Tanzania. He described and published 144 taxa of Afrotropical butterflies. He was killed when his car hit a stranded lorry in the dark on his way to get permits for a survey in southern Tanzania.

  87. Erin Kane said

    Eight rangers in Parc National Des Virungas in DRC (mostly organized around mountain gorilla conservation) were killed yesterday in an attack, probably perpetrated by the FDLR.

  88. Ed Saugstad said

    One of those on the Dead Fly Workers list (posting no. 79) is Ernest Gerald Gibbins (1900-1942), who did research on mosquitoes and black flies, speared to death by locals in Uganda while he was investigating a yellow fever outbreak. Apparently, his attackers believed that the blood samples he was taking were intended for witchcraft purposes. An investigating policeman was quoted as saying that Gibbins’ body was “…as full of spears as a bloody porcupine.”
    The mosquito Anopheles gibbinsi is named for him.

  89. For Karl Patterson Schmidt (who famously published a posthumous paper describing the early symptoms of his fatal snakebite), the story of his death is briefly retold, with links (including to Chicago newspaper articles) and literature citations, in my recent post at Why Evolution Is True:

  90. Anne Vallée (
    Kirsty M Brown (

  91. Gregg Gorton said

    How could I forget to mention Maria Koepcke (1924-1971), one of the most famous Neotropical ornithologists? Born and trained in Germany, she moved to Peru in 1950, where she collaborated with her husband Hans-Wilhelm Koepcke, and eventually became Curator of Ornithology at the Natural History Museum in Lima. She wrote and illustrated Las Aves del Departamento de Lima (1964), translated as The Birds of the Department of Lima (1970), which appeared shortly before her death in an airplane crash over Amazonia on Christmas Eve, 1971. The Koepcke’s 17-year-old daughter, Juliane, was the lone survivor, who fell thousands of feet while still strapped to her chair. Mother and daughter had been flying to meet Hans-Wilhelm at a field station in Amazonia for the holiday. Despite injuries, Juliane managed to walk for ten days until she was found, always following waterways downhill, as she had been taught to do if ever lost. Two movies, one by Werner Herzog, have been made about her miraculous survival, and–now a well-known mammalogist–she will publish her memoir (in German), When I Fell From the Sky, in March, 2011. Her mother, Maria, was honored by having three birds named in her honor: Koepcke’s Screech Owl, Koepcke’s Hermit, and Selva Cacique (Cacicus koepckeae).

  92. Max Barclay said

    Joy Adamson (20 January 1910 – 3 January 1980) (born Friederike Victoria Gessner) was a naturalist, artist and author best known for her book, Born Free, which describes her experiences raising a lion cub named Elsa. Born Free was printed in several languages and made into an Academy Award-winning movie of the same name. Found murdered in her camp, made to look like it had been done by a lion.

  93. Max Barclay said

    George Adamson (3 February 1906 – 20 August 1989), also known as the “Baba ya Simba” (“Father of Lions” in Swahili), was a British wildlife conservationist and author. He and his wife Joy Adamson are best known through the movie Born Free and best selling book with the same title, which is based on the true story of Elsa the Lioness, an orphaned lioness cub they raised and later released into the wild. Shot dead in Kora reserve by Somali bandits

  94. Max Barclay said

    I love this idea!

    Edith Holden 1871-1920, British naturalist and natural history illustrator, most famous for ‘Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady’, fell into the River Thames at Kew and drowned while collecting blossom from a horse chestnut tree for an illustration.

  95. Max Barclay said

    Marton Hreblay (1963-2000) killed in a car accident while collecting Lepidoptera (Noctuidae) in northern Thailand.

  96. Max Barclay said

    I will leave it to you whether you consider Maxwell Lefroy as eligible or not; he accidentally poisoned himself while exploring chemicals for killing (rather than discovering) insects

  97. Max Barclay said

    Norman Veitch Lothian (Dr., Major) killed in a car accident in
    May 1929 in Beyreuth while researching malaria. An American malariologist and fellow member of the League of Nations Malaria Commission ‘Dr. Darling’ was killed in the same accident, and the ‘Lothian Scholarship’ and ‘Darling Prize’ for Malaria research were created in their honour.

  98. Ed Saugstad said

    I’m not sure if he qualifies, but a former acquaintance of mine, Dr. (PhD) Michael Perich, an entomologist employed by LSU who was working on the epidemiology of West Nile virus, died in an automobile accident near Baton Rouge in October 2003. However, the news account at the time ( did not specify whether the accident was work-related.

  99. Max Barclay said

    Here’s the correct data on Lothian & Darling

    Norman Veitch Lothian 31/7/1889 – 21/5/1925
    Scottish Medical entomologist and League of Nations Malaria commission ‚Field Epidemiologist’

    Samuel Taylor Darling 6/4/1872– 21/5/1925
    ‚Darling of Panama’: US Medical entomologist and member of the League of Nations Malaria commission

    killed in the same car accident in Beirut, while researching malaria mosquito epidemiology in the near-east. ‘Lothian Scholarship’ and ‘Darling Prize’ for Malaria research were created in their honour.

  100. Don Cipollini said

    Here’s a link to a memorium for Dr. David Maehr, late of the University of Kentucky:

  101. Warren W. Aney said

    Professor Aldo Leopold (1887-1948), father of wildlife ecology who helped found The Wildlife Society and the Wilderness Society, died of a heart attack while battling a wildfire on his neighbor’s property.

    And can you come up with a better name than “The Wall of the Dead”? Sounds like someting from a horror movie. Maybe something along the line of “The Wall of Honor.”

  102. Edward F. Ricketts (1897-1948), marine biologist, author of still-used littoral zone handbook “Between Pacific Tides,” killed by a train at an intersection in Monterey, California.

  103. Mike Bush said

    Three avian biologist from Florida Atlantic University died a couple of years back in a plane crash in the Everglades conducting wading bird monitoring. Not exactly discovering new species, but promising young scientists that died in pursuit of biological knowledge nonetheless. Knowledge that may prove invaluable for conservation biology.

  104. Rebecca said

    Fatal plane crash, several conservation biologists and WWF employees, 23 September 2006:

  105. Ne said

    Joan Root

  106. Kathy Hall said

    Dr. Carlos Goenaga, a coral researcher in Puerto Rico, died at 42 when a huge wave washed him off a rock, while searching for an illusive mollusk with his students.

  107. Robert Ross said

    LueJiang Wang (1963-2000), a promising young paleoceanographer, died in a diving accident. Raised in China, he did post-doctoral research in Germany and had become a professor in Japan at Hokkaido University. He was studying the geological history of monsoons in China using fossil planktonic foraminifera and other tools.

  108. Robert Ross said

    Annette Barthelt (1963-1987), Marco Buchalla (1959-1987), Hans-Wilhelm Halberg (1963-1987), Daniel Rein Schmidt (1959-1987): These four young marine biologists from the University of Kiel in Germany were all killed in a terrorist attack in Djibouti while waiting to board a three-month expedition of the German research vessel Meteor in the Indian Ocean. (Thirteen were killed in all, and four other Kiel scientists were seriously wounded.)

  109. Robert Ross said

    Katsumi Abe (c.1953-1998) was a brilliant young Japanese researcher of the evolution and behavior of planktonic bioluminescent ostracodes (minute crustaceans known in Japan as “marine fireflies”). He died not while in the field, but driving home late from a seminar (a more general academic risk). One well-told tale by Todd Oakley is here:

  110. Félix Rodriguez De la Fuente was the best known spanish broadcaster and naturalist of the past century. He died while working in a plane crash in Alaska (U.S.A.). A statement on its aniversary :

  111. Félix Rodríguez De la Fuente was the best known spanish broadcaster and naturalist of the past century. He died while working in a plane crash in Alaska. Reminder of the anniversary of his death :

  112. Ben Crain said

    Orchid biologist- Miguel Ángel Soto Arenas, assassinated in his home. See Hágsater 2010 in Lankasteriana

    Also, Universidad de los Andes students Margarita Gomez and Matthew Matamala Neme, shot multiple times while in San Bernardo de Viento on January 11, 2011 while documenting biodiversity on Caribbean Beaches.

  113. Terri Wentworth-Davis said

    How about these three-

    Rachel Carson- who I think, ironically, died of breast cancer
    John James Audubon- not sure if he died of natural causes
    John Muir- died of pneumonia

  114. Rachel said

    Eric York, biologist killed by pulmonic plague after autopsying a mountain lion in the Grand Canyon. 1970-2007,

  115. Joe Mitchell said

    Wonderful project. I submit three I did not see in your list.

    Edward Flanders Robb Ricketts (14 May 1897 – 11 May 1948), better known as Doc in Steinbeck’s Cannery Row, pioneering marine ecologist, wrote Between Pacific Tides, still in print, and co-wrote Sea of Cortez with John Steinbeck. Died when a train hit his car in Monterey, CA.


    John R.H. Gibbons (1946-1986), herpetologist, decribed several species of lizards in Fiji, including the spectacular Fiji Island iguana. Died along with his entire family in a boating accident off the island of Lekeba.


    Clarence J. McCoy (1935-1993). Curator of herpetology at the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh, PA. Described new lizards, turtles,salamaners, and an amphisbaenian in North and South America. Died of a heart attack age 57.

  116. 220mya said

    Jeheskel ‘Hezy’ Shoshani – An expert in proboscidean (elephant) biology, he was killed by a bomb explosion on a minibus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on May 21, 2008.

    • So glad Hezy has been proposed – he was an all round naturalist, conservationist and a wonderful teacher, inspiring people of all nationalities with his fascinating for all life-forms and their evolutionary relationships, especially but not limited to those with trunks! He is greatly missed at CITES conferences and zoological gatherings which are not the same without his infectious mirth.

  117. Abramchuk, Siarhei (1984-2010), Belarusian young promising ornithologist, of encephalitis after a tick bite in the national park “Belavezhskaya pushcha”, Belarus.

  118. Joe Mitchell said

    Skiles, Wes (1958-2010). pioneering underwater cinematographer, still photographer and conservationist, worked with National Geographic and scientific research teams to explore caves and their hidden marine life, died on assignment off the coast of Florida.

  119. lukemahler said

    T. Preston Webster III (1947-1975), herpetologist, killed in a car crash in Montana, USA. Webster was best known as a pioneer of gel electrophoresis techniques for elucidating species relationships, and he was among the first to describe “cryptic species” using molecular data. Webster conducted extensive fieldwork on the Anolis lizards of the Caribbean, as well as salamanders in the southeastern USA. He has since been immortalized with the names of an anole (Anolis websteri; Arnold 1980) and a salamander (Plethodon websteri; Highton 1979).

  120. planesmith said

    The list is well worthwhile – as some comments make clear not everyone is a saint but their passing and the work they have done is still worth acknowledging.

  121. David A. Johnston (1949-1980), American vulcanologist with USGS, killed by the eruption of Mount St. Helens.

    (If you don’t mind my expanded view of what constitutes a naturalist.)

  122. Ken Dodd said

    I suggest adding J. (Viji) Vijaya (1959-1987). India’s first female herpetologist and turtle field biologist. She was found dead of unknown cause in the forest. A profile of her was published in:

  123. Fred Robinette said

    Herbert L. Stoddard (1889-1970one of the most important southern conservationists of the twentieth century, developed a method of forest management in the longleaf-wiregrass region of Georgia that is still widely practiced today. Also known as an authority on the bobwhite quail, Stoddard advocated the reintroduction of fire as a land management tool, at a time when powerful forest interests considered burns to be a plague on the land. Along with his friend and colleague Aldo Leopold, Stoddard also helped to establish the profession of wildlife management, and he was among the first to critique from an ecological perspective the nation’s move toward industrialized agriculture

    Archie Fairly Carr, Jr. (June 16, 1909–May 21, 1987) was a Professor of Zoology at the University of Florida, a herpetologist, ecologist and a pioneering conservationist. In 1987 he was awarded the Eminent Ecologist Award by the Ecological Society of America. He made extraordinary contribution to sea turtle conservation by way of bringing attention to the world’s declining turtle populations due to over-exploitation and loss of safe habitat.

  124. David Pilliod said

    Check out the publication:

  125. Dreux Watermolen said

    I suggest this addition:

    Stanley Dodson, a Univeristy of Wisconsin freshwater ecologist who focused on zooplankton community ecology and population ecology of Daphnia, died in 2009 following a bicycle accident in Colorado.

    More information at

  126. What about Jaques Cousteau and Steve Irwin “The Crocodile Hunter” –these heroic naturalists and conservationists truly need to be on this list.

    Jacques-Yves Cousteau (11 June 1910 – 25 June 1997) was a French naval officer, explorer, ecologist, filmmaker, innovator, scientist, photographer, author and researcher who studied the sea and all forms of life in water. He co-developed the aqua-lung, pioneered marine conservation and was a member of the Académie française. He was also known as “le Commandant Cousteau” or “Captain Cousteau”.

    Stephen Robert Irwin (22 February 1962 – 4 September 2006) Australian television personality, wildlife expert, and conservationist.
    Irwin achieved worldwide fame from the television series The Crocodile Hunter, an internationally broadcast wildlife documentary series which he co-hosted with his wife Terri. Together, the couple also co-owned and operated Australia Zoo, founded by Irwin’s parents in Beerwah, about 80 km (50 miles) north of the Queensland state capital city of Brisbane.

    Irwin died on 4 September 2006 after being pierced in the chest by a stingray barb while filming in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Since her husband’s death, Terri Irwin has continued to operate Australia Zoo and raise their two children. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society ship MY Steve Irwin was named in his honour.

  127. Hearn, Mike (1972-2005)
    He was surfing, between stints in the field with the Save The Rhino Trust, Northern Namibia

  128. Michael Marangio said

    I’d like to add James D. Anderson, herpetologist and taxonomist who described several snake and salamander species. His name was memorialized in Ambystoma andersoni, a species he discovered in Mexico. He was my major professor at Rutgers in Newark, N.J. Died in the early 1980s in a car accident on a field trip to study bog turtles.

  129. Max Barclay said

    Otakar Brodsky (?- 1986) died of a heart attack while collecting Cleridae beetles in a rainforest in Vietnam; what I heard was that he was seated under a tree with his collecting equipment in his hands, and his colleagues didn’t immediately realise he was dead…

  130. small correction concerning Brown, Kirsty M. : according to wikipedia she worked for the British Antarctic “Survey” not the British Antarctic “Service”,
    the wikipedia entry is referenced with links from NewScientist and National Geographic

  131. correction and expansion for Helfer, Johan Wilhelm: his name was Helfer, Johann Wilhelm, born in Prague, died through poison dart in the Andaman Islands

  132. Many Australians will remember Richard Zann, who studied the Zebra Finch in field and aviary, as well as lyrebird mimicry and the fauna of Krakatau. He died aged 64 with his wife and daughter in the Black Saturday bushfires of February 2007. Sadly missed.

  133. Lev Kaplanov (1910-1943), the first researcher of Siberian tiger biology in the wild, killed by poachers in Ussuriland.

  134. Sergey said

    Uldis Knakis, russian wild biologist, 1939-1970. Killed by poachers.
    l (text in Russian)

  135. Victor said

    Maria del Pilar Franco Rosselli (1950-2000). Colombian botanist of the Instituto de Ciencias Naturales who died while collecting plants of the genus in the Andes.

    • Victor said

      Maria del Pilar Franco Rosselli (1950-2000). Colombian botanist of the Instituto de Ciencias Naturales who died while collecting plants of the genus Cecropia in the Andes.

  136. Pavel Krestov said

    Hoshino Michio was killed by a brown bear while on assignment in Kurilskoye Lake, Kamchatka, Russia in 1996

  137. […] that have gone extinct over the past 30 years.  So it occurred to me to make something like my Wall of the Dead–A Memorial to Fallen Naturalists, but for lost plants and […]

  138. Michael Grzhimek (1934-1959), German zoologist and environmentalist, died in a plane crash in Serengeti.

    Nina Epova (1920-1960), Russian botanist, drowned during a river crossing in Khamar Daban Mountains. Her research led to the creation of Baikal Nature Reserve.

    Emanuelle Gallman (1966-1983), Italo-Kenyan self-taught herpetologist, died from a puff adder bite at Ol Ari Nyiro.

    Anatoly Yudakov (1938-1974), Russian zoologist who mostly studied Siberian tigers, died after being crushed by a fallen tree in Ussuriland.

  139. Stevens said

    Rudolf Kaufmann, German paleontologist; made early contributions to the study of allopatric speciation. Was persecuted in Nazi Germany because of his German heritage. Shot by guards in Lithuania in 1941, while trying to flee.

  140. Vitaly Nikolaenko (1938-2003), zoologist at Kronotsky Nature Reserve, Kamchatka, and a world-famous nature photographer, killed by a brown bear.

  141. I’ve attended the Sandhill Crane Festival here for many years and have been involved with the volunteer committee for the last few. We have a speaker who talks about the life of Leopold and his daughter also attends and gives talks. She’s also a naturalist and a researcher.

    That said, I enjoyed reading this post and I’m going to follow your blog as I find your topics very interesting.

  142. Tom Shahady said

    I could not find where Dr. Elisha Mitchell is listed? He determined that Mt. Mitchell in North Carolina was the highest peak east of the Mississippi – later during one of his expeditions he slipped and fell 40 feet to his death.

  143. Shawn said

    Ryan Beaulieu (1987-2005) was a New Mexico teen who pioneered the banding and research program for rosy finches in the Sandia Mountains. He was killed in an automobile accident while on a birding trip.

  144. C. Salinas said

    A small correction if I may, to your entry “Arenas, Miguel Angel Soto”. It should actually ready “Soto Arenas, Miguel Angel” (listed under “S”). Family (Last) names in México are compound-nouns, made usually of the combination of the Father and Mother last names respectively. Thank you in advance.

  145. Luisa said

    Filippo de Filippi [1814 – 1867].

    As a reader familiar with your admirable work here [a few weeks back I submitted the name of field ornithologist Mike San Miguel], you can imagine the start of recognition when I read these words about the death of a zoologist — written in the 1860s: [Filippo de Filippi] “fell, as a soldier on the field of battle, a victim to his love of Natural Science.”

    De Filippi was the naturalist on board the Magenta, an Italian ship circumnavigating the globe on a government-sponsored scientific voyage. He died en route to Hog Kong “of dysentery and liver trouble,” according to Wikipedia. The words above were written by his assistant and successor, Henry Hillyer Giglioli. Giglioli named De Filippi’s Petrel [Aestrelata defilippiana] in honor of predecessor.

    Source: a most excellent post at the most excellent website 10,000 Birds.

  146. Sad news about the loss of an ornithologist, Brad Livezey, in a car accident. Not including in the list for now, but if work related please advise.

  147. Ik said

    Claudio Posa Bohome (1965-2010). Equatoguinean professor in the Universidad Nacional de Guinea Eciatorial, specialized in botany and ethnobotany. In January 2010, he became acute ill while in a biodiversity expedition to the Gran Caldera de Luba, in the remote southern part of Bioko Island, Equatorial Guinea. He died, aged 44, soon after being evacuated to hospital.

  148. Vena Kapoor said

    Your list would not be complete without adding Dr. Ravi Sankaran (Oct 4, 1963 – Jan 17, 2009)the prominent Ornithologist, field biologist and conservationist in India. His work on the Indian Edible – Nest Swiftlet provided crucial insights for the conservation of this species, and he was deeply involved in developing community-based conservation efforts including ranching / sustainable harvesting of these birds’ nests. He was Director Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology & Natural History when he passed away following a heart attack. See below for more on Ravi and his work –

  149. August Plee (1787-1825) Died from sickness in Martinique on August 17, 1825 after sending botanical specimens back to France.

  150. Ik said

    Jordi Magraner (1959-2002). Spanish zoologist working at the Natural History Museum of Paris, he quited his position at the Museum in order to start an independent research project in Northwest Pakistan, studying the facts and legends surrounding the Barmanu. The Barmanu is an hominid-like creature that local people consider as inhabiting the remote Chitral Mountains.

    After many years of research, Magraner eventually settled in Chitral and continued his studies living among the local people from the pagan and marginalised Kalash tribe, who considered him as their protector.
    In 2002, the instability that followed the US-led invasion of Afghanistan spilled over to this area which lays near the Afghan border. In August 2nd 2002 he was murdered, age 43, along with his 12-year old assistant by two of his former afghan assistants. The exact motives remain unclear, but some weeks before his death he had been urged by Pakistan officials to left the area.

    He was buried by the Kalash in the local town of Bumburet.

  151. […] or naturalists out there who go in the field to collect beetles, take note. Here’s a list of naturalists (Wall of the Dead) who have lost their lives while investigating nature. Of particular interest: […]

  152. Kotaseao, Vickson, research associate at the Wei Institute in Papua New Guinea and the first person to discover the larva of the jewel beetle genus Calodema. Mr. Kotaseao was brutally murdered in an ambush while on duty at the Institute.

    Source: Nylander, U. 2008. Review of the genera Calodema and Metaxymorpha (Coleoptera: Buprestidae: Stigmoderini) Folia Heyrovskyana, Supplementum 13, 1-84 (review).

  153. Steve Gorzula said

    The list misses crocodile and rhino biologists Tirtha Maskey and Narayan Poudel (Nepal). They died in a helicopter accident.

  154. Bernardo Ortiz said

    Dear Richard, amazing compilation! each character has its own mysterious drama that makes very interesting. You are mising the most prominent Colombian naturalist from the 2nd half of the XX C, Dr. Jorge Ignacio Hernandez-Camacho (AKA “Mono” Hernandez or even El Sabio Hernandez) an authority on anything Neotropical. He died from a heart attack while visiting a mangrove area near Cartagena, Colombia, an area later declared as a small protected area (3,850 Ha) christened with his name = Santuario de Fauna y Flora El Corochal “El Mono Hernandez”. Several plant and animal (lizards and frogs)spceies have been named in his honor.

  155. S. H. Su said

    Cheng, Yu-Pin (1966-2009), a botanist and ecologist at Taiwan Forestry Research Institute, died, age 43, in a car accident on his field trip to collect a rare Fagaceae species in Pingtung County, Taiwan.

  156. A, Stokes said

    Suggest you also add Terriss (Terry) Walker and Daryl Reimer, prominent Queensland seabird scientists who disappeared at sea in May 1992 in the Gulf of Carpentaria,Australia, whilst surveying remote seabird islands. [Obituary in Ogilvie, P., and K. Hulsman 1993. Obituaries of Terriss (Terry) Adrian Walker (1950‑1992). Corella 17:129‑130.]

  157. Robert Hansen said

    Shannon, Frederick A. (1921–1965), American physician and herpetologist, died from the bite of a Mojave Rattlesnake that he was attempting to catch. A tree lizard is named in his honor (Urosaurus graciosus shannoni).

  158. Robert Hansen said

    Mendoza Quijano, Fernando (1957–2008), age 51 years, Mexican herpetologist, killed along with his wife in a car accident in Durango, while traveling to meet an American colleague to obtain textbooks for his university students. An obituary was published in Herpetological Review 42(2):133–134.

  159. James Van Dyke said

    I’d suggest both Robert MacArthur and Don Tinkle be added to the list. They don’t fit strictly into the requirement that one has to have died in the line of work. However, they deserve mention because both made quite significant contributions to ecology and evolution, yet died in their 40s (of cancer, I believe), likely before the extent of their genius could be shared with the rest of us.

  160. Andy said

    It would be great if you could add Chris Wysiekierski to the list. He was a graduate student at the University of Windsor (Canada) who drowned in a snorkeling accident while conducting field research near Turneffe Atoll, Belize in August 2001. He was 30 years old.

  161. Judy said

    What about Timothy Treadwell (Grizzly Man)?

    • There’s a difference between making discoveries about species and what Treadwell did, which I think was more about making discoveries, or creating a drama, about himself.

  162. John Plant said

    For inclusion in the list you may consider Klaus Warncke (and Konrad Thaler).

    Klaus Warncke 1937-1993 one of the most prolific investigators of bees in Europa. He named over 885 new species of Palearctic bees. Died in a car accident along with his wife, Christa, near Cario, while on a field expedition in Egypt, when his car was struck head-on by an oncoming truck.
    Linzer biologische Beiträge 26(2): 649-663, 1994 (with picture)

    Konrad Thaler 1940- 2005 Austrian arachnologist, who described 77 species of Alpine and Mediterranean species. Died of a sudden heart attack while on a student field trip in the Alps.
    Arachnologische Mitteilungen 30:1-12 2005 (with picture)

  163. Marc said

    Hi, I posted the the Simon Thirgood link. It is now broken, but there is a more permanent one (

  164. Ken Dodd said

    Paul Igag was New Guinea’s premiere ornithologist. He died in 2010 at age 46, but I am not sure of the circumstances. Information on him is at: Perhaps other ornithologists can fill in the details.

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  166. frenky said


  167. J.P. Ault – magnetic observer with the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism – Captain of the ship Carnegie -died in 1929 due to an explosion during refueling of the Carnegie in Apia, Samoa.

  168. Matt said

    This list is a really interesting idea but not every name here seems to meet the same test. With due respect to Aldo Leopold’s family and fans, his career was focused on management, not discovery. He died at a fairly typical age while fighting a fire that threatened his own property, from a heart attack following a lifetime of smoking. None of that qualifies him as a martyr to science.

    • Yes, the point about conservation versus discovery seems valid. I am tinkering with another list where Leopold might be a better bit.

      Meanwhile, I welcome comments from defenders of Leopold’s place on this list.

      Also other efforts to weed this list down for better focus on species discovery.

  169. […] work is dangerous–scientists doing such work can get themselves into deadly situations. PLS and I have previously co-posted on the dangers associated with field work and potential safety […]

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  178. Melanie Bond said

    Scott Jay Maness reptile biologist died fighting wildfire at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.

  179. Thomas Hildenhagen said

    Heinrich Kuhl died of diarrhea with liver infection , van Hasselt of dysentery both in Bogor (former Buitenzorg).

    • Thomas Hildenhagen said

      Heinrich Boie was born on 4. May, 1794 in Meldorf, Germany, not in 1784 (error from the English-Wikipedia page of Heinrich Boie)

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  181. […] Finally, Conniff’s book has an intriguing “Necrology” (pp. 379-383) of those who died while in the search for new species. He has continued this as an informational collection online at, “The Wall of the Dead:  A Memorial to Fallen Naturalists.” […]

  182. […] by paramilitary drug cartel members. They were near a manatee study site, and appear to have been seeking new species and/or studying biodiversity in the area. Their bodies were found at the mouth of the Sinú River, […]

  183. Robin Hide said

    Carr, Cedric Er(r)oll
    Born: 1892, Napier, New Zealand. Died: 1936, Port Moresby, New Guinea. (during botanical collecting expedition).
    Went to England with his parents at the age of 7; he came to Malaya in Jan. 1913 as an Assistant on Kulong Rubber Estate, Malacca; in 1916 he returned to England for military service; in 1919 to Malaya again, as Manager of Lendu Estate, Malacca, and then of Tembeling Estate, Pahang, until 1931. In 1933 he went to England, working at the Kew Herbarium, leaving again at the end of 1934 for his Papuan expedition. On the road back he fell ill with blackwater fever. From his boyhood he was interested in orchids, on which subject he wrote several papers, principally based on his own collections. Extensive botanical collections in Malaysis and New Guinea.

  184. Stefano said

    Filippo Bassignani, an Italian researcher and conservation biologist, was killed by an elephant in Mozambique, aged 39.
    A foundation named in his honor awards research scholarships:
    Laccodytes bassignanii are named after him.

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  190. Robin Hide said

    Czech student killed on research trip to Papua New Guinea

    A Czech student who had been sent to Papua New Guinea for a research trip was killed on January 27th. He was working on his dissertation at the University of South Bohemia in České Budějovice and was an employee of the university’s entomological institute. His doctoral thesis focused on the ground beetle. He died after a fall into a ravine in Papua New Guinea’s Finisterre mountain range.

  191. Tom said


    […]The Wall of the Dead: A Memorial to Fallen Naturalists « strange behaviors[…]…

  192. […] Wall of the Dead A Memorial to Fallen Naturalists […]

  193. Tod Highsmith said

    Josh Nove died while censusing waterbirds in Alaska:

  194. […] Wall of the Dead A Memorial to Fallen Naturalists […]

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  200. […] or, like Darwin aboard HMS Beagle, were embedded with military expeditions. For full blog, go to: This entry was posted in wetlands. Bookmark the permalink. ← Views from the […]

  201. Paul A. Davis said

    Walter Volz (1875 – 1907) Swiss botanist, zoologist & ethnologist, killed April 2 when the French attacked and destroyed the village of Bussamai in what is now Guinea where he had been stranded after being abandoned by his native carriers. (ref: Basu, Paul – object diasporas, resourcing communities: Sierra Leonean Collections in the Global Museumscape; Museum Anthropology, vol. 34, no. 1; 2011

  202. Paul A. Davis said

    Frederick Nutter Chasen (1896-1945), British ornithologist, Director, Raffles Museum, Singapore. Killed when the “HMS Giang Bee”, the ship upon which he was evacuating Singapore, was sunk by Japanese forces in the Bangka Strait.

    • Paul A. Davis said

      Year of death should have been 1942. Obituary in the “Auk” incorrectly put the date of his death, and the sinking of the “Giang Bee”, on 9/1/1945, after the end of the war, while the “Giang Bee” was actually sunk on 13 April, 1942.

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  204. James Wetterer said

    Looking for collections dates for Herbert H. Smith, I came across this:
    “Collecting naturalia can even in modern times be dangerous, especially if you are deaf as Herbert H. Smith (1851-1919) was. Collecting snails along the railway in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, that tragic day in March 1919, he was hit by the train and killed.”

  205. Paul A. Davis said

    Yuri Igorevich Sazonov (1950-2002), Russian ichthyologist, died at age 51 of severe cold contracted when he continued to work at his laboratory at the Zoological Museum of the University of Moscow during roof repairs being performed during the winter.

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  212. David Hollombe said

    Ralph Hoffmann (1870-1932), botanist and ornithologist, director of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, fell from a cliff on San Miguel Island, California while collecting plants.

  213. I am guessing that the Michael Alberico that is listed here is the man I went to college with at Knox College. He graduated in 1970 and I believe his date of birth would have been 1947, not 1937. The last I heard directly from him was October 18, 2000, and he was living in Washington, DC. He was married to a native of Cali, Columbia, and certainly might have returned there to live or visit.

  214. Lauren Raz said

    Dennis E. Puleston (1940-1978), American archaeologist was killed by a lightning strike at the top of an ancient Mayan pyramid in Chichen Itza in the Yucatan.

  215. Dr. Ken Dodd, University of Florida said

    Add: Ambika Tripathy, conservation biologist from Orissa. He was killed while studying sea turtles when the tsunami of December 2004 struck Galathea Camp on Great Nicobar Island. See: Chandi, M. 2012. A story of field assistants and sea turtle research in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Indian Ocean Turtle Newsletter 16:19-21.

  216. […] he made that list, which you can find here. Many of these naturalists were murdered by people in the regions they were working. Others died of […]

  217. Jonathan Clegg said

    Benoit Mys should be on this list. A Belgian PhD Student from the University of Antwerp, he conducted research in Northern Papua New Guinea in the mid 1980’s for his PhD related to the zoogeography of the skink fauna of the region. He died in a vehicle accident on the north coast highway of PNG in 1990 while conducting fieldwork there.

    • Joe Springer said

      I found two reference by Mys:

      Mys, Benoit. 1988. The zoogeography of the scincid lizards from North Papua New Guinea (Reptilia: Scincidae). I. The distribution of the species. Bull. Inst. Roy. Sci. Nat. Belgique (Biologie) 58:127-183.

      Greer, A. E., & Mys, B. 1987. Resurrection of Lipinia rouxi (Hediger, 1934) (Reptilia: Lacertilia: Scincidae), another skink to have lost the left oviduct. Amphibia-Reptilia 8:417-418.

      I imagine he might have published more had he lived longer.

      • Jonathan Clegg said

        I have a copy of his paper from 1988 which contains at least five or six unpublished citations relating to his PhD on PNG skinks that he never got around to submitting. I’m not sure what became of them following his death.

      • Joe Springer said

        One would hope his Ph.D. chairman would go ahead and submit the material for publication, but that should have happened soon after Mys’ death in 1990.

  218. Annie Ray said

    While sorting references, I just happened upon an obituary for James G. T. Chillcott, 1929-1967, who died of a fatal heart attack near Kathmandu, Nepal. He was an expert on flies. His obituary, written by Howell Daly can be found in The Pan-Pacific Entomologist. 1967. 43(2):171. I didn’t know him personally…it was a little before my time.

  219. MYRMECOS said

    […] (Source: Sue VandeWoude; data from Richard Conniff’s Wall of the Dead.) […]

  220. […] A Memorial to Fallen Naturalists […]

  221. stnhr said

    Patricia Ortiz, a myrmecologist from Costa Rica, killed by falling rocks at the age of 40:

  222. Elisabeth said

    Fredrik Hasselquist (1722–1752) (Swedish “apostle” of Linnaeus’s) died of TBC. In Swedish, but you can always Google translate it:

  223. Alex Bond said

    Luis R. Monteiro, (d. 11 December 1999), a leading seabird expert from the University of the Azores for whom Monteiro’s storm-petrel is named (Oceanodroma monteiroi) died in a SATA airline crash in the Azores (he is also memorialized in the acknowledgements of many papers from the Azores in 2000-2002).

    • Joe Springer said

      Did Monteiro die “in the line of duty”? Death by plane crash while radio-tracking would count. But death in an airliner crash might not.

  224. Kevin Cummings said

    • Joe Springer said

      Arlo Raim being struck by a train and killed while doing a bird survey should qualify him for a spot on this wall. I grew up about 10 miles from Pratt’s Wayne Woods and camped there many time.

  225. Ernst Vondelaar said

    May I suggest to ad Wolf V. Vishniac?
    Vishniac (1922-1973) was a microbiologist & Professor of Biology at Rochester, who devised the “Wolf Trap”, a mini laboratory setup to search for life on Mars on one of the Viking landers, which eventually was not included due to budget cuts to the project. He died on Antarctica on 10 December 1973 when he apparently fell on the ice while (while alone) attempting to retrieve an experiment. A Crater on Mars was named after him.

    • Joe Springer said

      I don’t think that he would qualify as a naturalist.

      • That’s what I would have said, because I find the whole search for life on other planets a huge distraction. On the other, look at what he was doing. A microbiologist in search of new species in hostile territory. I’m going to add him.

      • Joe Springer said

        Good point. Richard. I think you are correct.

      • I am adding a website for myself here, because every time my mouse goes over that icon to the right, I get sent to a Yahoo search page I can’t get out of. Let’s see if this works. Richard, feel free to delete this comment right away, because it’s just a test on my part to see if I can avoid Yahoo.

      • Richard, the experiment didn’t work. It’s as though it’s looking for a website, but since it’s not connecting, WordPress defaults it to the Yahoo search page that behaves like malware. When I go to the icon by your posts, it gives a thumbnail of your profile. When I do it to others’ icons it does that too or it does nothing. Anyway, dump these messages — they don’t belong on this board.

  226. Val said

    Excellent work here, thanks for doing that.

    I may have missed it, but I didn’t see Tom Schopf.

  227. Terry Mackin said

    Richard, thanks for adding Valerie Chabot. She was a volunteer, not a federal employee. Here is what I gleaned from the Anchorage paper. (Little bit of gibberish I couldn’t figure out in the image to text translator.)

    “FAIRBANKS (AP) — A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service volunteer from Eagle River fell to her death while studying falcons on a cliff at the Tanana River near Nenana. Valerie Chabot, 31, was pronounced dead at a Fairbanks hospital after apparently losing her footing and falling 75 feet Tuesday afternoon, Fish and Wildlife officials said. Rescue workers had unsuccessfully tried to revive her. Falcons nest high on steep cliffs, usually near rivers. Reaching them typically involves rock climbing and rappelling. “It’s not your backyard biology ” Fish and Wildlife spokesman Bruce Batten said. “It’s classic Alaska: challenging field-study conditions.” Chabot was about 8 miles upstream j^^f?,^ on a J° int P r °J” ect of Fish and Wildlife and the state Department of Fish and Game. Batten said Chabot could have been studying any of three peregrine falcon species in Alaska: the American Peales or Arctic. Volunteers also have been studying the birds on the Nenana and Yukon rivers. Chabot’s death is the first for the falcon program, but not the first for biologists in Alaska. In recent years two biologists and their pilot died when their plane crashed as they sought polar bears north of Ban-ow, and two other biologists died in a boating accident near Adak in the Aleutian Islands, Batten said. “To me it indicates not just the challenging conditions but the tremendous commitment of the people that we have working for us, not only full-time staffers but volunteers during the summertime,” Batten said.”

  228. Terry Mackin said

    David S. Pitkin & V. Ray Bentley, 1/17/2010 in a plane crash.

  229. Terry Mackin said

    Out of alphabetical order in your list…

    Veasna, Sam (1966?-1999) Cambodian ornithologist died of malaria, age 33, during field work in the Cardomom Mountains.

  230. Terry Mackin said

    Kelson Vaillancourt (d 5/21/2009) & James Schneck (d 5/20/2009), Huron, SD

  231. Sharyl said

    I could have missed it here, if so, sorry. Mt Mitchell’s namesake ..

    The mountain was named in honor of Dr. Elisha Mitchell, an educator and scientist from Chapel Hill, who died while climbing the mountain in 1857 in his effort to prove it was the highest peak in eastern North America. The grave of Dr Mitchell lies next to the observation deck.

  232. Michael Watkins said

    How about adding in
    Perry Oveitt Simons (1869‒1901) was an American citizen who collected in South America, taking reptiles and amphibians in Peru (c.1900) and birds in Bolivia (1901). When crossing the Andes his lone guide murdered him. Chubb (q.v.) studied Simons’ collections extensively in the second decade of the 20th century. There are more than a dozen holotypes in the BMNH which he collected. Seven birds, four reptiles, two amphibians and a mammal are named after him.


    Johan August Wahlberg (1810‒1856) was a Swedish naturalist and collector. He studied chemistry and phar¬macy at Uppsala (1829) and worked in a chemist’s shop in Stockholm while studying at the Forestry Institute. He travelled and collected widely in southern Africa (1838‒1856), sending thousands of specimens home to Sweden. He returned briefly to Sweden (1853) but was soon back in Africa where he was in Walvis Bay (1854). He was exploring the head¬waters of the Limpopo when a wounded elephant killed him. An amphibian, mammal, four birds and four reptiles are named after him.

    Above paragraphs will appear in Eponym Dictionary of Birds which will be published in June 2014 by Bloomsbury Group. I am one of the co-authors of it. Similar entries can also be found in three othere Eponym Dictonaries of which I am also co-author, covering Mammals, Amphibians and Reptiles

    • These sound like perfect additions. Thanks Michael!

      • Michael Watkins said

        Glad you like them! There are quite a few more I can think of who could be on this list.

        Frank Linsly James (1851‒1890) was an explorer of the Sudan, Somalia, India and Mexico. He published Experiences and Adventures during Three Winters Spent in the Sudan (1883) and The Unknown Horn of Africa ‒ an Exploration from Berbera to the Leopard River, which was edited by his widow (1890). A wounded elephant killed him.

        J. Austin Roberts (1883‒1948) was a South African zoologist. During the first half of the 20th century he was the most prominent ornithologist in southern Africa. He worked at the Transvaal Museum for nearly four decades studying birds (1910‒1946). He amassed 30,000 bird skins and 9,000 mammal specimens there. Although he did not have formal academic training, he received several high academic awards and an honorary doctorate. Roberts is best remembered for his Birds of South Africa (1940), a landmark publication in African ornithology which has developed in size and authority with repeated posthumous editions. He died in a traffic accident. The Austin Roberts Bird Sanctuary was established in his hometown, Pretoria (1958).

        Here are a married couple who both qualify:

        John Isaiah Northrop (1861‒1891) taught botany and zoology at Columbia University. He was the husband (1889) of Alice Rich Northrop (1864‒1922). They spent six months in the Bahamas collecting animal, plant and mineral specimens (1890), then the most extensive natural history survey undertaken there. When she finished her analysis of the botanical material, ten years later, Alice found she had discovered 18 new species. A Naturalist in the Bahamas (1910) was a collection of John’s and Alice’s papers, edited by Henry Fairfield Osborn, and published posthumously under the names of Northrop and Osborn as co-authors, John was killed in a laboratory explosion (1891) a week before the birth of their only child, a son, John Howard Northrop (1891‒1987) who won a Nobel Prize for Chemistry (1946) She travelled widely in the Americas and became a Professor at Hunter College. She was killed when her car stalled on a level crossing and was hit by a train

      • Thank you for these excellent additions.

      • Michael, it seems that Roberts did NOT die while in the course of his work. And Northrop died in the lab. Most of those listed on this page died in field while actually gathering data.

        Simons, who was murdered while conducting research is a great inclusion. Wahlberg, who was killed by an elephant, also is a great inclusion.

  233. I seem to have inadvertently deleted part of an entry, between Mys and Nakano. If anyone has printed out the list and can help me fill in the blanks, I would be most grateful. Here is the fragment I have left:

    of PNG in 1990 while conducting fieldwork there.. A Belgian PhD Student from the University of Antwerp, he conducted research in Northern Papua New Guinea in the mid 1980′s f

    • Jonathan Clegg said

      I’ve done some research and found that Mys actually died in 1989 not 1990. His details are 21/07/1960 – 05/05/1989 so he was 28 when he died.

  234. I have been receiving nominations lately from Michael Watkins, whose books seem like a good source for this sort of inquiry:

    The Eponym Dictionary of Mammals
    Bo Beolens, Michael Watkins and Michael Grayson
    Published in 2009 by the Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, USA

    The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles
    Bo Beolens, Michael Watkins and Michael Grayson
    Published in 2011 by the Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, USA

    The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles
    Bo Beolens, Michael Watkins and Michael Grayson
    Published in 2013 by Pelagic Publishing, Exeter, England

    Whose Bird? Men and women commemorated in the common names of birds
    Bo Beolens and Michael Watkins
    Published in 2003 by Christopher Helm, London, England

    This will be superceded on 19th June 2014 by
    The Eponym Dictionary of Birds
    Bo Beolens, Michael Watkins and Michael Grayson
    Publisher: Christopher Helm, London, England

  235. Ian Mackay said

    Charles Leslie McKay (1855-1883). Scottish-American naturalist. Discovered McKay’s Bunting. Died in suspicious circumstances on a collecting trip in Alaska.

  236. A name I see missing is Peter Rawlinson, a very significant herpetologist and conservationist in Australia. He died tragically, I think from heat exhaustion, while in the field in Indonesia. He was a very significant figure in fighting for the conservation of native forest in southern Australia. See for example :

  237. Lori said

    Kate Furbish, (May 9, 1834 – December 6, 1931)

  238. […] Wall of the Dead: A Memorial to Fallen Naturalists clubs conservation gallery groups organisations rare trip reports taxonomy 2014-03-31 roma Share […]

  239. Noel Kempff Mercado deserves mention. I named a subspecies of leafotsser (a bird, Sclerurus albigularis kempffi) doscovered at PNNKM in his honor.

    Noel Kempff Mercado (February 27, 1924 in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia – September 5, 1986 in the Serranía de Caparuch, Bolivia) was a Bolivian biologist and environmentalist.

    Kempff Mercado studied at the University of Santa Cruz where also received his BS in 1946. During a field campaign in the Huanchaca Nationalpark in 1986 he and several other scientists discovered a cocaine factory in the Bolivian forest. Kempff Mercado and most of the scientists were killed by the criminals. The Huanchaca National Park was renamed in 1988 as Noel Kempff Mercado National Park.

  240. […] A Memorial to Fallen Naturalists […]

  241. […] The Wall of the Dead: A Memorial to Fallen Naturalists […]

  242. […] added The Wall of The Dead, hosted by Richard Conniff, to the blogroll. It is a memorial listing naturalists who have fallen […]

  243. Laura said

    Erick Rogers –

  244. Is Tony Seymour on the list? I have contacted a friend of his to see if he can contact his wife. I would rather she gave permission for him to be included. Tony was an Ichthyologist (I believe) working on Lake Malawi, but living on Anglesey (North Wales). He sadly died of DVT on a return flight from Malawi about 8 years ago.

  245. […] of race Mother Nature Network: 7 scientists killed by their own experiments Strange Behaviors: The Wall of the Dead: A Memorial to Fallen Naturalists Active History: Digital Approaches to 19th Century Globalisation Youtube: Video: John Wilkins: […]

  246. Alfonso Susanna, Botanist said

    Mercado, Noel Kempff (1924-1986), Bolivian biologist, was scouting out a new national park in Santa Cruz department when his group landed at what they thought was an abandoned airstrip. It turned out to be a cocaine factory. He was murdered, age 62, and the national park was subsequently named for him.
    Everything is correct; he was exploring the Serranía de Huanchaca in Bolivia (he landed in the mountains before my team, fortunately enough). His fist family name was Kempff; the entry should read Kempff Mercado, Noel.

  247. David Duffy said

    Conservationist, indigenous leader killed in plane crash in Colombia
    Rhett A. Butler,
    September 07, 2014

    Share Share Share

    Roberto Franco
    Roberto Franco. Photo © The City Paper

    A conservationist who worked to protect voluntarily isolated tribes in the Amazon rainforest and an indigenous leader were among ten killed in a plane crash in southern Colombia Saturday afternoon.

    Roberto Franco, a political scientist who worked with the Amazon Conservation Team-Colombia, died when the Piper PA-31 Navajo crashed after takeoff from Araracuara in the department of Caquetá. Daniel Matapi, an indigenous leader, also perished.

    The plane was bound for Florencia, the capital of Caquetá, when it went down in Puerto Santander, Amazonas, according to the Colombian government. There were no immediate indications of what caused the crash.

    Franco had recently worked to document isolated tribes within Rio Puré National Park. The research was significant because isolated and uncontacted indigenous people in the Colombian are afforded the right to isolation, the right to their traditional territories, and reparations in case of violence under a 2011 legal decree. That measure specifically protects such groups — which may be voluntarily isolated — from unwanted contact, effectively making their lands off-limits to mining, energy development, logging, and industrial agriculture.

    Daniel teaching his fellow Yukuna-Matapis how to map on a computer. Miriti Parana river, Colombian Amazon. Photo courtesy of the Amazon Conservation Team.

    Mark Plotkin, the Founder and President of the Amazon Conservation Team, said both men “were much beloved” and will be “sorely missed”.

    “Daniel Matapi was our indigenous coordinator. He was born and raised in the Colombian Amazon, spoke four languages, and was equally adept at training western scientists, negotiating with tribal leaders, launching ACT field programs, and hacking trails through the jungle,” Plotkin wrote via email.

    “Dr. Roberto Franco was the leading authority on isolated tribes of the Colombian Amazon. He was a widely revered figure in Colombian academic circles, had published several important books on Colombian tribes (‘Karijonas de Chiribiquete’ and ‘Cariba Malo’) and was a fearless and effective crusader for the protection of isolated tribes.”

    Franco was interviewed by about his work in 2012.


  248. David Duffy said

    follow up on someone already listed:

    “The Jasper Loftus-Hills Young Investigator Award: Jasper Loftus-Hills
    (1946-1974) was an Australian biologist of exceptional promise when
    he was killed by a hit-and-run driver while recording frog calls
    along a Texas highway, three years after receiving his degree. The
    award was established in 1984 to recognize promising outstanding work
    by investigators who received their doctorates in the three years
    preceding the application deadline, or who are in their final year of
    graduate school. It involves presentation of a research paper in the
    Young Investigator’s Symposium at the ASN annual meeting and includes
    a $500 prize, a travel allowance of $700, cost of registration for the
    meetings, and a supplement of $800 for travel and other expenses for
    this year’s case of intercontinental travel. Four awards are made
    annually. Recipients need not be members of the Society. The prize
    committee encourages direct applications and welcomes suggestions of
    people who should be encouraged to apply. Applications should consist of
    no more than three pages that summarize the applicant’s work (excluding
    tables, figures, and references), no more than four appropriate reprints,
    and a CV combined as a single pdf. Two letters from individuals familiar
    with the applicant’s work should be sent separately. All application
    materials should be sent via e-mail by January 1, 2015, to Jonathan
    Shurin ( Please indicate “Young Investigators’ Award”
    in the subject line, and for reference letters, the name of the applicant.”

  249. […] A Memorial to Fallen Naturalists […]

  250. Ekaterina Yuzhik said

    Ustinov Nikolay (194?-1988), 44 age, russian microbiologist, after an accedent in center of virusology “Vector”, Novosibirsk, Russia, where he researched Marburg virus. He realized he was deathly ill and noted step by step his Marburg desease in diary for the future researches. Last pages of his diary are covered with his blood. Virus strain from his blood was named “Variant-U” in his honor.

    Presnyakova Antonina (195?-2004), 46 age, senior laboratory assistant in center of virusology “Vector”, Novosibirsk, Russia, after an accedent in laboratory working with Ebola virus. Dispite of rapidly hospitalization, she died soon of Ebola fever.

    • Thank you, Ekaterina. These seem to me to belong to a different and equally heroic list, medical workers who have given their lives in the fight against disease. If no such list exists, it’s probably only because it would have to be horrifically long.

    • Ekaterina, while there are microbial ecologists who might be considered naturalists, Nikolay and Antonina were not naturalists.

  251. Richard, it breaks my heart to add another name to your list: our colleague and friend Ronnie Sidner, mammalogist, conservationist, and tireless advocate for bats. Ronnie died last August in an automobile accident on her way home after leading a bat field trip for the Southwest Wings Birding Festival.

  252. Maureen A. Donnelly said

    Hi Richard — here is another loss of a naturalist. William A. Bussing, famous ichthyologist in Costa Rica, passed away on 17 November 2014 following an automobile accident in Costa Rica. Thanks for doing this.

  253. Marcelo A. Bagno (1968-2002) – a.k.a. BG. Brazilian Ornithologist drowned trying to cross a river during fieldwork in the state of Goias. University of Brasilia Ornithology collection was named after him.

  254. R Bruce Bury, Emeritus Scientist, USGS said

    A great field biologist was Ray Bentley, who was also a pilot. He and fellow passenger died in plane crash on way home from surveying all day. Details online at:

  255. Ashli Gorbet said

    Ella Jaz Kirk (1999 – 2014) Amateur freshwater ecologist, conservationist, writer. A Silver City, New Mexico resident, Ella Jaz Kirk, died in a plane crash while returning from an eco-monitoring project along with two of her Aldo Leopold Charter School classmates, Michael Mahl and Ella Myers.

  256. Linda Duever said

    Has anyone mentioned bear researcher Dave Maehr, who died in a plane crash while doing field surveys in Florida about ten years ago? Be sure to include him! He had wonderful insight into natural history.

  257. Bryan Jennings said

    Richard, the list does not seem to contain Walter Mosauer who died while on a reptile collecting trip to Mexico.

    • Michael Watkins said

      For your information, from the Eponym Dictionary of Amphibians:


      Cave Splayfoot Salamander Chiropterotriton mosaueri Woodall, 1941

      Dr Walter Mosauer (1905–1937) was an Austrian physician who qualified at the University of Vienna (1929). While still a student at Vienna he made a reptile-collecting trip to Tunisia for the Museum, University of Vienna. He went to the USA (1929) undertaking a doctorate at the University of Michigan (1931). He joined the faculty of the University of California, Los Angeles as Instructor in Zoology (1932) and (1932–1937) made a number of collecting trips to Mexico, Arizona and Colorado. A keen skier, he introduced the sport to students in Los Angeles, organizing and training student ski teams. He wrote The amphibians and reptiles of the Guadalupe Mountains of New Mexico and Texas (1932). He died of blood poisoning whilst on a field trip collecting reptiles in Mexico.

      Mike W

  258. Dr. Tyla S. Holsomback said

    Please add Michelle Christine Knapp (1982-2006), a brilliant and promising young mammalogist in the lab of Robert J. Baker of Texas Tech University, who was killed in a single car accident. Rene Fonseca (in the list above, also a doctoral student from TTU), was struck and killed by a motorist as he shoved his brother out of harm’s way (their car was on the roadside while they were working on it).

    • Tyla, did Michelle and Robert die WHILE doing field research? I think that is the point of this wall. It is like the Vietnam Wall — those who died in the service of the country. Here it’s those who died while doing work as a naturalist. It’s not all naturalists who have died.

      So, if you could provide some details, it would help Richard.

      • Dr. Tyla S. Holsomback said

        Hi, Joe. Robert J. Baker is not deceased. Michelle was killed while returning from Caprock Canyons State Park & Trailway. She was not there collecting bats; she was there doing what we often do – communing with and admiring nature’s splendor, taking pictures, etc. So, you are correct – she was not doing field work sensu stricto. Thank you for pointing this out to me :-)

      • Tyla, I think that could still count. That would be up to Richard. But it sounds like Michelle was doing what naturalist tend to do when they have a free moment of time. I said “work” in my previous post, but I actually meant was “doing what naturalist do” or something along that line. For most of us naturalists, we do not consider what we do as work even though we get paid for it.

      • Tyla Holsomback said

        I agree with you, Joe. And even when we are not “on the clock” as it were, we are pretty much always working our passions of scientific observation, inquiry, arguing (ha), etc. about the natural world – and as you aptly stated – not really work to us, at all. Side note: I remembered afterwards that Michelle may have been returning from Palo Duro Canyon and not CRC. But Richard can verify easily enough. Happy 2015!

  259. Gordon C. Snelling said

    Good see my dads name made it on the list

  260. Karoline Ceron said

    Raulino Reitz, brazilian botanic, was author of Illustrated Flora of Santa Catarina, with Roberto Klein. Received many awards honoring his scientific work, consisting of 45 books and 114 scientific articles focusing Botany, Zoology and Genealogy. With his mate Roberto Miguel Klein, Raulino Reitz received the Global 500 Award of the United Nations (UN), in Mexico City in 1990. Died during a ceremony in his honor in the city of Itajaí, SC, Brazil

  261. Aja Woodrow said

    Rocky Spencer

  262. Jorge Bernal said

    Jorge Ignacio Camacho 1935-2001, one of the most important biologists naturalists in one of the most bio-diverse countries around the planet.

  263. Paul Oliver said

    Jarrod Stehbens – Adeaide University – Shark attack

  264. Peter Rankin – “Peter Rankin, a young Australian herpetologist of great promise, was killed in New Caledonia on 2 January 1979 while collecting reptiles.”:

  265. Hans Schnurrenberger (???? – 1964), Swiss herpetologist, died of the bite of an Asian coral snake in Pokhara, Nepal, while collecting reptiles and amphibians as a sideline to his work in a refugee camp for the Swiss Red Cross. See

  266. Cabe said

    I am not sure how you are defining “naturalist,” but 2 of my Duke School of Forestry and Environmental Studies classmates, Pavlik Nikitine and Kerrie Kutzmier, were killed in a plane crash in Costa Rica. They were working on seperate projects at the time. You can read more at

  267. Ron Pine said

    You should look into Douglas Ralph Emlong. He was a fantastic collector of extremely important fossils. As I recall–but this should be checked–he died from a fall from a sea cliff he was collecting on. Perhaps the best source of information on his death would be found in Ray, Clayton E. [a former curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Smithsonian]. 1980. Douglas Ralph Emlong 1942-1980 (Obituary). Society of Vertebrate Paleontology News Bulletin, 120: 45-46.

  268. Peter Wilson said

    John R. Maconochie (1941–1984) – Australian botanist who died in a motor vehicle accident while consulting in Oman.

  269. Sean said

    Brandon Brei (1977 – 2003) was a graduate student at Yale studying infectious disease. He drowned trying to rescue a fellow student from a rip current off Puerto Rico on 22 March 2003 ( while attending a CDC workshop on dengue fever. Brandon was a great kid and deserves to make this list; had he not been killed he would have done great work on the natural history of infectious disease.

  270. Shelby said

    Marina Vargas Giggleman, Ph.D (1960 – 2007). Marina, a strong, brilliant woman, a beloved wife and mother, a marine biologist, and environmental scientist was born July 17, 1960 in Caracas, Venezuela and died April 3, 2007 in an ATV accident. She died in the line of duty while searching for Kemp’s ridley sea turtles at Padre Island National Seashore to protect them. Her passion for the preservation of endangered marine life and all other animals was second only to her passion for family and friends.

  271. Carol Cassels said

    Does Guy Bradley not qualify? He was one of the U.S.’s first game wardens and the first Audubon Warden to die in the line of duty while protecting nesting wading birds from plume hunters. He was shot and killed July 8, 1905, in the Everglades of Florida.
    Bradley, Guy

    • Interesting suggestion. I think Guy Bradley belongs on an entirely different, and probably longer, list of game wardens who continue to die to protect wildlife. That’s a harder list to construct because the game rangers being shot down in developing countries often go nameless in news reports. But I think a group called “The Thin Green Line” (?) has attempted something along those lines. I have to say I’ve probably been inconsistent on this point, and included a few game rangers along the way.

    • By the way, game wardens are killed in the line of duty at the greatest rate of ANY form of law enforcement. There just are not nearly as many of them as there are city cops. Nebraska, for example, has 41 game wardens covering the whole state. Wyoming is about the same. A town of 30,000 people in Nebraska has a city police department of 50 or so.

      Wardens are almost always confronting people alone (no partners), where the people are armed, and they are often intoxicated to some extent.

      But game wardens (game rangers) are law enforcement officers and not typically naturalists.

  272. Here is a reference for 1947 as Mia Tegner’s date of birth.

    Thanks for putting up this wall.

  273. Ana M. Ibars said

    Tomás Sánchez Velázquez, Canarian pteridologist (1954-2013),%20%C3%81guedo.+Tom%C3%A1s+S%C3%A1nchez+Vel%C3%A1zquez(Teror,%201954-2012).pdf/7f095a9c-1aab-4892-af1f-da51c5205821

    • Sorry to say, my Spanish is not good enough to translate this. Could a better qualified reader supply a translation in the usual format? That is:

      Last name, First Name, (year of birth-death), brief description of specialty and contributions, died, age ??, of what cause, where. Add URL for relevant link.

      Thank you.


      • Chris Buddenhagen said

        Sánchez Velázquez, Tomás (1954-2007) was a rare plant and fern specialist in the Canary Islands (and produced excellent line drawings of his study subjects). A sudden and fatal illness took his life at age 53.

      • Thank you, Chris. Nitpicking, but do you have any idea if the illness was connected to field work?

      • Chris Buddenhagen said

        It doesn’t say in the supplied information. BTW I posted about Hamish Saunders a while back and he did die doing field work doesn’t seem to have made it into the list.

      • Very sorry about Saunders. I sometimes miss comments in the rush of other work. Will try to fix at lunch today. Will also add Sanchez, pending further info.

  274. Gregg Gorton said

    In the Eponym Dictionary of Birds (Beolens, Watkins, Grayson, 2014), p. 159: Eugene D’Osery (1818-1846), a French traveller and collector, was killed by Indians while a member of Castelnau’s collecting expedition (1843-1847) to the source of the Amazon. D’Osery has two birds, plants, fish, and other taxa named after him.

  275. Darcy Ogada said

    Gosh, what a great way to commemorate our fallen colleagues and friends. I was surprised to realize that I knew four of those on your list personally. Very sad, that they are no longer with us, but I’m sure they are watching with dismay from the other side at the ongoing destruction of our planet and its magnificent creatures. It only inspires those of us still here to do more. There was a PhD student I worked for briefly in Minnesota who died in a plane crash while tracking moose (1998?). When I can recall his name, I will post it. Thanks for the website.

  276. Nancy said

    Reblogged this on "OUR WORLD".

  277. Alvin Y. Yoshinaga said

    David Nelson is not yet on this list. At the recommendation of Sir Joseph Banks, he was appointed botanist on Capt. James Cook’s third voyage of exploration in the Pacific (1776-1780), where he made important collections. After that, he worked at Kew Gardens until 1787, when he was appointed botanist on Capt. William Bligh’s fateful expedition to collect breadfruit in Tahiti. Among the loyal crew members whom the mutineers set adrift with Bligh, he survived three months crossing the Pacific in an open boat with little food or water. They arrived at Kupang (Koepang), Timor in present-day Indonesia on 12 July 1789. Shortly after arrival, Nelson went botanizing in nearby mountains despite his weak condition. He caught a cold and died on 20 July 1789.

    Little in known of his early life or education, not even the date of his birth. No portraits of him drawn from life are known to exist.

    Nelson, David (17? – 1789), British plant collector, botanist on Cook’s third voyage and Bligh’s “HMS Bounty” expedition, died age ? from fever after botanizing near Kupang (Koepang), Indonesia.

    On-line biography at

    In the movie “The Bounty” (1984) he is portrayed by Simon Chandler.

  278. Alvin Y. Yoshinaga said

    Besides David Nelson, mentioned in the previous note, several others in this list have been portrayed in non-documentary movies:

    Joy and George Adamson, played by Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers in “Born Free” (1966). The Adamsons were still alive when the film was released.

    Dian Fossey, played by Sigourney Weaver in “Gorillas in the Mist” (1988).

    Capt. James Cook, played by many actors in various movies.

    Edith Holden, played by Pippa Guard in “The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady” (1984).

    Pliny the Elder, played by Tim Pigott-Smith in “Pompei – The Last Day” (2003).

    Nikolai Vavilov, played by Kostas Smoriginas in “Nikolay Vavilov” (1990).

    See also the entry for K. P. Schmidt in the main list.

  279. Richard, there was a publication put out by The Wildlife Society where the names of wildlife biologists who died in the line of duty are listed. It is Sass, D. B. 2003. “Job-related mortality of wildlife workers in the United States, 1937-2000.” Wildlife Society Bulletin 31(4):1015-1020.

    I would think that with a little detective work, one could match the names with the dates and find the individual causes of death to add the names to your wall. Some are already there.

    Joe Springer

  280. Wiesiek Babik said

    Rafiński, Jan (1943-2003), naturalist, evolutionary biologist and herpetologist. He died, age 60, of heart attack during field work on a newt hybrid zone in the Magurski National Park, S Poland

  281. Charlotte Bjora said

    Norway’s first botanist Cristen Smith died on his trip to Congo, and should be added to the list. Details:

  282. TRT said

    Martin Brasier…

  283. The Millers Tale said

    Roger Deakin, brilliant landscape writer, killed by a brain tumour. Too young.

  284. Michael Purugganan said

    Could we add to Leonardo Co’s entry the following? “Two species of Philippine endemic plants have been named in his honor: the orchid Mycaranthes leonardi and the parasitic plant Rafflesia leonardi.”

  285. […] sadly, is that being an ecologist/naturalist is not without its peril. Richard Conniff’s Wall of the Dead is a great testament to this.  Secondly, the main dangers or warnings of a given field site will […]

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