R.I.P. Carl Leopold

 This post was contributed by ESA Science Policy Analyst Piper Corp.


Carl at the shack.  Photo: Aldo Leopold Foundation Archives.
Carl at the shack. Photo: Aldo Leopold Foundation Archives.

 On November 18, 2009, A. Carl Leopold, son of the celebrated ecologist Aldo Leopold, passed away at his home in Ithaca, New York, at the age of 89. Carl Leopold was an accomplished plant physiologist and World War II veteran, and he carried on the legacy of his father as an active conservationist. He was a founder and director of the Aldo Leopold Foundation, the founding president of the Finger Lakes Land Trust, and co-founder of the Tropical Forestry Initiative

As a teenager, Leopold worked with his family to restore the natural landscape on their Wisconsin River farm, a transformation that his father famously chronicled in A Sand  County Almanac.  Carl Leopold’s own writings include the seminal plant physiology text Auxins and Plant  Growth (1955), the textbook Plant Growth and Development (1964), and several articles on the scientific process and the relationship between science and ethics.

Leopold’s diverse career included appointments as Graduate Dean and Assistant Vice President for Research at the University of Nebraska, Senior Policy Analyst on the staff of the Science Adviser to the President during the Ford Administration, and William H. Crocker Scientist at the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research (an affiliate of Cornell University). After his retirement, he remained active in science, conservation, and public service-he was a strong voice against horizontal drilling and toxic waste storage in the Marcellus Shale, and a volunteer at a local food pantry. He was at work on two papers when he passed away, one on memory in plants and one on Wisconsin phenology.

 Leopold will be remembered as an inspired scientist and an eloquent ambassador of his father’s land ethic. In a piece commemorating Leopold’s life, the authors wrote:

Carl grew up with strong personal roots in the natural world and in the Land Ethic of his father and after growing his own youthful sapwood, colorful heartwood, and thin latewood, Carl became a mighty and graceful trunk that nurtured and enthusiastically supported many plant physiologists and conservationists who consider themselves to be “Leopold leaves” on the tree of Carl’s life.