Richard D. Taber: 1920-2016

We were incredibly sad to learn that Professor Emeritus Richard “Dick” Taber, a long-time faculty member at SEFS, passed away on January 25, 2016, in Missoula, Mont. He was 95 years old.

Dick Taber was a California native who studied zoology as an undergraduate student at the University of California, Berkeley. He earned his bachelor’s in 1942, and at the outbreak of World War II he joined the Marine Corps and served with distinction in the Pacific as an officer in artillery. Among other deployments, he commanded a detachment of Marines to get the Japanese to the surrender on the USS. Missouri on September 2, 1945. He also served briefly in the occupation forces in Japan. Following his discharge, he applied to graduate school at the University of Wisconsin and was eventually accepted by Aldo Leopold as a master’s student. Following Leopold’s passing, Dr. Joseph Hickey assumed responsibility for advising Dick through his thesis research.

2016_01_Dick TaberAfter completing his master’s, Dick entered a doctoral program at Berkeley, where he worked under the guidance of A. Starker Leopold, Aldo Leopold’s son. His doctoral work resulted in a classic study on the black-tailed deer of the chaparral, and Dick later joined the faculty at the University of Montana in 1955. When he came to the University of Washington in 1968, he was instrumental in helping develop the original undergraduate and graduate programs in wildlife science at the College of Forest Resources (now SEFS). His primary research interests were in ungulate ecology, though he advised graduate students in a variety of vertebrate ecology and conservation areas.

Dick was known for his inquisitive nature and quick wit, and he was an excellent writer. He was also a strong believer in interdisciplinary approaches to science, and he encouraged the formation of a group of faculty from the College of Forest Resources and the College of Fisheries to form a committee to develop the first wildlife curriculum.

During his time on the SEFS faculty from 1968 to 1985, he advised 23 master’s and 16 doctoral students. He often asked penetrating questions at oral exams and usually asked more questions of guest speakers than anyone else present. He made a lasting contribution to not only the wildlife program, but also to the College of Forest Resources, and he received numerous awards throughout his career—including in 2008, when The Wildlife Society presented Dick with its highest honor, the Aldo Leopold Award.

He was well-respected by all of his colleagues, and his valuable lessons live on through his many graduate students—and now their graduate students, as well. Some of his former students, in fact, went on to become his professional colleagues at SEFS years later, including Professor Emeritus Dave Manuwal, who earned his master’s with Dick at the University of Montana, and Ken Raedeke, who earned his Ph.D. with Dick at SEFS.

If you wish to make a donation in his memory, you can make a gift to the Richard D. Taber Wildlife Student Award Fund, which was established to provide annual awards to meritorious SEFS students who are involved in the study and research of wildlife science.