Kin to the Earth: Dr. Lowell Diller

June, 2017

Our ecoregion lost a true friend to wildlife when Dr. Lowell Diller passed away on March 4.  Lowell was a consummate wildlife biologist and conservationist, a role model, a dear mentor, and a treasured and trusted colleague. 

Growing up around Grants Pass, he developed a love for things wild and after getting a Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of Idaho in 1981, he took an academic position in the Biology Department at Frostburg State University in Maryland. In 1990, he took a job where he felt he could put his academic ideas into practice and then spent the rest of his career in Northwestern California as the senior wildlife biologist for the Simpson Timber Company (now Green Diamond). Lowell’s death also touched his family deeply, and details about his life are in his obituary. 

Lowell used Green Diamond’s extensive holdings in the redwood region to study forest wildlife and how to best conserve them on lands managed for timber production. His work encompassed diverse species, including torrent salamanders, tailed frogs, fishers, red-backed voles, and northern spotted owls. With many scientific publications, he became widely respected for his knowledge of forest wildlife and their management on timberlands. 

Well-known for his work to conserve spotted owls, he also served in lower-profile ways, including 27 years on the Arcata Community Forest Management Committee, and advising Save the Redwoods League on how to improve amphibian habitat on previously-logged, degraded forests. 

When barred owls expanded their range into West Coast forests, Lowell used data collected for decades on Green Diamond lands to evaluate the effects the newcomer would have on northern spotted owls. When initial results looked bad for spotted owls, Lowell bravely led a study (where federal agencies apparently feared to tread) to determine, experimentally, the effect of barred owls on the Northern spotted owl. This required removing—by shooting)—barred owls that had moved into spotted owl territories. While Lowell disliked the idea of shooting any owl, he felt that it was necessary to conserve spotted owls.  He went ahead and did the shooting himself, rather than make someone else do it.

Wildlife professionals throughout the region recognized Lowell’s ability to make and maintain bridges. As a professor, a well-published scientist, and an active and effective advocate for animals, Lowell put a very human face on a timber company and fostered trust with conservationists and wildlife professionals alike. 

Beyond Lowell’s contributions to the conservation of forest wildlife in the North Coast region, perhaps his greatest legacy is the many students and young professionals whose lives and careers he touched. Lowell made time to serve as a well-liked adjunct wildlife professor at Humboldt State University, where he taught (without pay) courses on reptile and amphibian management, mentored undergraduates, and advised many graduate students. He loved to take students and others into the field, imparting his knowledge and enthusiasm for wildlife and their study. 

To honor and remember Lowell, an endowment has been established to support scholarships for HSU students who share his passion for wildlife, field work, and mentoring others. Those who wish to contribute to the fund can make checks payable to “Humboldt State University Advancement Foundation,” note in the memo line that the donation is for the Lowell Diller Wildlife Scholarship Endowment, and mail to:  Gift Processing Center, Cashiers Office - SBS 285, Humboldt State University, 1 Harpst Street, Arcata, CA 95521.

In recognition for his contributions to the knowledge and conservation of wildlife species and their habitats, we humbly honor Lowell Diller as Kin to the Earth.


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