Raymond F. Dasmann: A Life in Conservation Biology

153 Raymond F. Dasmann

Raymond F. Dasmann: A Life in Conservation Biology

Interviewed and Edited by Randall Jarrell

2000, 232 pages.

Read the PDF of Raymond F. Dasmann's oral history (E-Scholarship)

"Not everyone seems to realize there is another vicious world war already underway--the war against the planet. It is an ecological war, and the weapons being used are more powerful everyday . . . When this war is finally won, the consequences will be as severe and irreversible as though we had fought a nuclear war."
--Raymond F. Dasmann

"Ray Dasmann innovated the lucid, non-political, and universally applicable idea [of] ecodevelopment . . . His impact on conservation thinking has been fundamental . . . So many eminent persons are credited with inventing new wheels, only to find that their predecessors were the originals. Ray is surely one of those, way ahead, even sometimes too far ahead, of his time. He has thought deeply, but written clearly, about the fundamentals of our relationships with, and dependency on nature."
-G. Carleton Ray

Raymond F. Dasmann's life as a conservation biologist during a half-century embraced both groundbreaking fieldwork and the effort to delineate the concepts which are the intellectual scaffolding of modern ecology. His lifework was shaped by a passion for the natural world and the desire to solve the environmental problems which threaten the planet. Dasmann passed away in 2002.

Dasmann studied at UC Berkeley under the legendary wildlife biologist A. Starker Leopold, and earned his Ph.D. in zoology in 1954. He began his academic career at Humboldt State University, where he was a professor of natural resources from 1954 until 1965. During the 1960s, he worked at the Conservation Foundation in Washington, D.C., as Director of International Programs and was also a consultant on the development of the 1969 Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment. In the 1970s he worked with UNESCO where he initiated the Man and the Biosphere program (MAB), an international research and conservation program, which is still ongoing. During the same period he was Senior Ecologist for the International Union for Conservation in Switzerland, initiating global conservation programs which earned him the highest honors awarded by the Wildlife Society and the Smithsonian Institution.He joined the faculty at UCSC in 1977 and was Professor of Ecology in the Environmental Studies Department there until he retired in 1989.

Dasmann was one of the pioneers in developing the the conservation concepts of "eco-development," and "biological diversity," and identified the crucial importance of recognizing indigenous peoples and their cultures in efforts to conserve natural landscapes. These concepts over the last thirty years coalesced in American and international environmental thinking as "sustainable development," the key dynamic concept informing contemporary conservation efforts.

The oral history volume documents the intellectual geneology of these ideas and their practical application in Dasmann's work; and his long association with some of the key American and global environmental organizations which emerged during the latter half of the 20th century.

Dasmann published numerous scientific articles and books, including The Last Horizon (1963), The Destruction of California (1964), Planet in Peril? (1971), The Conservation Alternative (1973) and his classic textbook, Environmental Conservation (5th edition, 1984), all of which have had lasting influence in modern conservation thinking and policy-making. He was involved in many environmental organizations, including the Wildlife Society, World Conservation Union, Earth Island Institute, the Central California Coast Biosphere Reserve, the World Wildlife Fund. Raymond F. Dasmann's life as a conservation biologist during a half- century embraced both groundbreaking fieldwork and the effort to delineate the concepts which are the intellectual scaffolding of modern ecology. His lifework was shaped by a passion for the natural world and the desire to solve the environmental problems which threaten the planet.