NY Times article on Al Gentry - Ted Parker (Fwd)

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Tue Aug 10 23:27:05 CDT 1993


Article 244 of bionet.biology.tropical:
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From: smith-una at cs.yale.edu (Una Smith)
Newsgroups: bionet.biology.tropical,bit.listserv.ecolog-l
Subject: Ted Parker, Al Gentry et al. die in crash
Date: 6 Aug 1993 20:49:42 -0400
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>From the New York Times, p. B7, Friday, August 6, 1993.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

Theodore Parker, Alywn Gentry, Biologists, Die in Airplane Crash

        by Ronald Sullivan

Two Americans ranked among the world's leading field biologists were
killed on Tuesday when an airplane they were using to make a tree-top
survey of the Ecuadorean coast crashed into a cloud shrouded mountain.
        They were Theodore A. Parker 3d, a 40-year-old ornithologist and
senior scientist for Conservation International, and Alwyn Gentry, 48, a
botanist and senior curator at the Missouri Botanical Garden.
        Three other people also died in the crash, including Eduardo Aspiazu,
and Ecuadorean ecologist who heads the Guayaquil chapter of the Nature
Foundation [Fundacion Natura?].
        Their deaths were reported Wednesday after Mr. Parker's fiance,
Jacqueline Goerck, who suffered a broken ankle in the crash, managed to
limp five hours through a rugged mountainous area before returning by air
to Guayaquil.

        Identifying 4,000 Species

Scientists familiar with the work of both Americans said their deaths
were major losses in their fields.  Mr. Parker was widely regarded as
one of the world's leading ornithologists, and was renowned for his
ability to identify nearly 4,000 species of birds by their sound alone.
John O'Neill, an ornithologist at Louisiana State University, where
Mr. Parker was a research associate at the Museum of National Science,
said of his colleague:  "There was no one like him out there.  He knew
birds better than any living person."
        Dr. Gentry was an expert in tropical plants and had collected
about 70,000 specimens, more than any other living botanist, according
to Conservation International.  His knowledge of woody tropical plants,
about which he recently published a major volume, was regarded by
scientists as unsurpassed.
        Dr. Peter H. Raven, the director of the Missouri Botanical Garden,
said Dr. Gentry "was undoubtedly the most knowledgeable person in the
world about the flora of Latin America."
        Refering to the hazardous tree-top flight that killed them,
Dr. Raven told the Associated Press that "it's always a risk in this
business, and these guys pushed the envelope as much as anybody."

        A Low-Level Flight

Russell Mittermeier, president of Conservation International in Washington,
said the two scientists were making a low-level flight 350 miles southwest
of Quito as part [of] the organization's program to survey quickly the
biological diversity of previously unmapped areas in the tropics.
        "Ted and Al carried two-thirds of the unpublished knowledge of
neotropical biodiversity, especially the tropical Andes, in their heads,"
Mr. Mittermeier said in a statement.  "We have lost friends and colleagues
whose biological and conservation knowledge is irreplaceable.  They knew
firsthand what others only theorized."
        Peter Selligmann, chairman of Conservation International, said
both scientists were "pioneers" who together constituted "an unmatchable
reservoir of knowledge."
        The nonprofit organization, which specializes in research in
tropical countries, seeks to find ways in which nature and people can
better coexist.  The organizations Rapid Assessment Program was to survey
the biological diversity.

        Adapting Field Techniques

The survey program, established by Mr. Parker four years ago, blends
traditional field techniques with the latest technology to survey a
region's system of plants and animals and then recommend ways to
protect them.  Much of the program's attention in recent years has
centered on so-called tropical hot-spots that are being threatened
by encroachment or destruction.  The program's first pilot survey was
conducted in a remote rain forest in the northern region of Bolivia
in 1991.
        Brent Bailey, a program manager for the survey, said that when
he and Mr. Parker took off in a small airplane in Bolivia, "He turned
around and said to me, I have the best job in the world."
        Mr. Bailey said that both men pioneered aerial surveys of
uncharted regions and that both were aware of the risks that such
flights posed.  "They knew, but it never stopped them," he said.
        Mr. Parker was born in Lancaster, Pa., and graduated in 1977
from the University of Arizona.  Beginning in 1988, he conducted
ornithological surveys in just about every Latin American country,
from Peru to Caribbean grasslands and remote Amazon jungles.

        Combing Through Trees

In his book, "Prowling Through Peru Seeking Birds to Name," Gerald
Gold described the adventures of Mr. Parker and a colleague as they
combed through trees and bushes for exotic species.
        Mr. Parker is survived by his parents, Theodore and Dorothy
Parker, of Lancaster, and by a brother and sister.
        Dr. Gentry was born in Clay Center, Kan., and received
degrees from Kansas State University and the University of Wisconsin.
He received a Ph.D. from Washington University in St. Louis.
        In a paper published in 1988 in the Proceedings of the National
Academy of Sciences, he reported that the tropical rain forests in the
upper Amazon may contain the world's greatest diversity of tree species.
        He also took part in studies designed to save the natural forests
of Paraguay in general and in particular in its Mbaracayu region.
        Dr. Gentry is survived by his wife, Rosa Ortiz de Gentry, two
daughters, and one son.

------------------------------------------------------------------------


All typographic errors are my own.

--

        Una Smith       Department of Biology           una_smith at yale.edu
                        Yale University
                        New Haven, CT  06511 USA




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