Annual Paul L. Errington Memorial Lecture

Dr. Paul L. Errington, quoted by Animal Ecology Today as one of the "four great pioneers of animal ecology", was a professor of wildlife biology at Iowa State University from July, 1932 until his retirement. Dr. Errington's love and understanding of nature is shown in four popular books: Of Men and Marshes, The Red Gods Call, Of Predation and Life, and A Question of Values. A Question of Values is a collection of essays published posthumously in 1987. Paul L. Errington passed along a priceless heritage of conservation wisdom and insight to those who have the opportunity to read what he wrote, who benefit from his skills, and who must continue to question and enlarge upon his findings. On the occasion of the annual Paul L. Errington Memorial Lecture, we recognize and pay tribute to his special qualities as a person and as a scientist.


Biography of Paul L. Errington

Photograph of Paul ErringtonPaul Lester Errington (1902-1962) Paul L. Errington was born on June 14, 1902, in Bruce, South Dakota. He graduated from Brookings High School in 1921, South Dakota State College in 1929, and earned the Ph.D. degree from the University of Wisconsin in 1932. He came to Iowa State University in July, 1932 as a Research Assistant Professor and remained at ISU throughout his career. He was promoted to Research Associate Professor in 1938 and to Professor in 1948. In 1958-59 he was on leave to serve as Visiting Professor at Lund University, Sweden.

Paul Errington and Carolyn Storm were married in 1934. The couple raised two children in Ames: Peter, of Washington, D.C. and Frederick, of Amherst, Massachusetts.

We remember and honor Dr. Errington as a naturalist in the most modern usage of the title. Life Magazine in 1961, featured Paul Errington as one of ten outstanding naturalists of North America. He not only was an expert at "reading sign"--tracks, prey remains and such--but was also expert at evaluating the forces that were affecting entire populations of animals. The animals he most intensively studied were bobwhite quail, minks, muskrats, and great horned owls.

Dr. Errington's elucidation of the automatic adjustments in natural populations gave a new interpretation to the concept of the "balance of nature." His recognition in this field was well expressed in Animal Ecology Today by Professor F. S. Bodenheimer of Hebrew University of Jerusalem. This book was dedicated to "four great pioneers of animal ecology," one of whom was Paul Errington. Principles credited to Dr. Errington in the book relate to "(1) the oft-misunderstood and exaggerated role of predation in nature; and (2) the complicated mechanisms of compensations, interplay, interruptions, deflections and successions that characterize free-living populations".

While much has been written about Dr. Errington and his accomplishments, it is often an individual's own words that state the case for our remembering that person. In July, 1947, The Journal of Wildlife Management published an article titled "A Question of Values" by Paul L. Errington [11(3):267-272]. The following quote is from pages 269-270 and 272.

To me, with gun in hand or without, the appeal of the out-of-doors seems chiefly conditioned by the relative diversity and completeness of its native fauna and flora and the naturalness of its topography.

Although we may not anticipate a general return of bison herds to the central plains of North America as long as we retain our present social and economic system, the perpetuation of much of our natural out-of-doors is not incompatible with modernity. The growing literature on integration of ends for sound and permanent land use contradicts the thesis that 'progress' must inevitably be accompanied by what we have been pleased to call the 'conquest of nature,' with its top-heavy artificialities and its wastefulness. 

Many of the problems of conservation and management are vexatious and appallingly involved. It is not hard to understand why conservation or management practice (or policy) has not been free from confusion and cross purposes or how it may be guided less by long-time than by immediate objectives. In common with other human endeavors, conservation or management probably always will be attended by its share of futility and short-sightedness. Regrettable though this may be, worse still is the outright destruction of the values needing most to be preserved -- especially in management programs sponsored by agencies subject to public pressure or catering to circumscribed groups.

It is fitting to strive for 'business-like' efficiency in wildlife management and to take aggressive action to stay or reverse the forces that impoverish the continent. Management, in the sense of judicious manipulation both of organisms and of their environment, should be legitimate and desirable as long as the price is not too great.

Within reason, we and our editorialized but cheated posterity should be able to think of wildernesses extending beyond highways, of barren grounds and ice-fields and deserts and unlogged forests and untampered lakes and streams. We should know of marshes with sandhill cranes and the more retiring of water birds, of rivers where otters live, of mountains where martens, fishers, wolverines, cougars, wolves, grizzly bears, and native sheep and goats exist in some security. Close to home, we should be able to find natural retreats in appropriate places, to see an eagle, osprey, loon, or one of the larger falcons on occasion; still to watch, among the sights that belong, the red-tailed hawk in the sky; still to hear, among the night sounds, the hooting of the horned owl in the woods.

In March, 1962, Professor Errington was awarded the Aldo Leopold Medal, the highest honor bestowed by The Wildlife Society. That same year his monograph, Muskrat Populations, was selected for the Iowa State University Press award for faculty publications.

Past Lectures:

  • 2023: Dr. Amanda D. Rodewald, Cornell University, "A Bird's-Eye View: Understanding Predator-Prey Interactions in the City" - Podcast Link
  • 2022: Dr. Christopher Schell, University of California-Berkeley, "Exploring the Impacts of Social-Ecological Heterogeneity on Urban Coyote Movement and Behavior" - Podcast Link
  • 2021: Dr. Nalini Nadkarni, Utah State University, “A Question of Values: Weaving science and society for forest conservation
  • 2020: Dr. J. Drew Lanham, Clemson University, "Coloring the Conservation Conversation"
  • 2019: Dr. Karen Oberhauser, University of Wisconsin-Madison, "Dwindling Numbers for an Iconic Insect"
  • 2018: Dr. Craig Packer, University of Minnesota, "Lion Conservation on a Crowded Continent"
  • 2017: Dr. Barbara Taylor, NOAA, "Vanishing Vaquitas: Lessons From a Humble Porpoise"
  • 2016: Dr. Andrew Derocher, University of Alberta, "Polar Bears: An Arctic Icon in a Changing Climate"
  • 2015: Dr. David Wilcove, Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University, "Saving Biodiversity in Southeast Asia"
  • 2014: Dr. Douglas W. Smith, Yellowstone Center for Resources, National Park Service, "Twenty Years of Yellowstone Wolves - Reintroduction to Recovery"
  • 2013: Dr. Jeremy Kerr, University of Ottawa, "Satellites & Butterflies: Climate Change and Species Conservation in North America"
  • 2012: Dr. Jerry Franklin, University of Washington, "Forests, Fish, Owls, Volcanoes . . . and People: Reflections on the growth of ecological knowledge and its application in policy in the Pacific Northwest"
  • 2011: Dr. Jonathan Foley, Institute of the Environment, University of Minnesota, “Feeding the World, Sustaining the Planet.”
  • 2010: Dr. Barbara A. Block, Hopkins Marine Station, Stanford University, “Tracking Giants across Blue Oceans”
  • 2009: Dr. Robert Rockwell, American Museum of Natural History & City University of New York, “The Early Bear Gets the Goose: Polar Bears, Snow Geese, and Climate Change”
  • 2008: Dr. Debra Peters, New Mexico State University, "Continental-Scale Ecology in a Connected World"
  • 2007: Dr. John Wiens, The Nature Conservancy, "From Wilderness to Wal-Mart: The Evolution of Conservation Philosphy and Practice"
  • 2006: Dr. Joy Zedler, University of Wisconsin-Madison, "Invasive wetland plants: How we learn their secrets"
  • 2005: Dr. James Karr, University of Washington, "Ecological and Social Health: It Matters What We Measure"
  • 2004: Dr. James Estes, USGS, Western Ecological Research Center, Santa Cruz, CA, "Large Carnivores and Nature's Balance"
  • 2002: Dr. Michael Dombeck, University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point, "Conservation Challenges for a New Century: Where Do We Go from Here?"
  • 2001: Dr. Jared Diamond, University of California - Los Angeles, "Guns, Germs and Steel: how the modern world came to be"
  • 2000: Dr. Kenneth Armitage, University of Kansas, "The Evolution of Sociality in Marmots: it all begins with hibernation"
  • 1999: Dr. Rolf O. Peterson, Michigan Technical University, "Wolves and Moose: the balance of nature at Isle Royale"
  • 1998: Dr. Fred Wagner, Utah State University, "Science and Policy-setting for Public Lands: The Need for Public Process in Yellowstone and Other National Parks"
  • 1997: Dr. P. Dee Boersma, University of Washington, "The Use and Abuse of Science: Controversy over the Lasting Impacts of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill"
  • 1996: Dr. E. O. Wilson, Harvard University, "The Diversity of Life"
  • 1996: Dr. Terry L. Root, University of Michigan, "People, Pigeons, and Politicians: Why should we be concerned about global climate change?"
  • 1995: Dr. Glen E. Woolfenden, University of South Florida, Archbold Biological Station, "Fire and Conservation of the Florida Scrub Jay"
  • 1994: Dr. Michael Rosenzweig, University of Arizona, "The Geographical Signal in Species Diversity"
  • 1993: Dr. Ronald Pulliam, Director of the Institute of Ecology, "Ecology, Economics and the Limits to Human Population Growth"
  • 1992: Dr. Wes Jackson, The Land Institute, "On Becoming Native to This Place"
  • 1991: Dr. E. Charles Meslow, Oregon Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, "Spotted Owl Conservation: Biology and Politics"
  • 1990: Dr. Mercedes S. Foster, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, "Social Systems in Manakins, Jewels of the Tropical Forest"
  • 1989: J. Larry Landers, Tall Timbers Research Station, "Fire in North American Wildlands: A Need for Decision"
  • 1988: Dr. Doug B. Houston, National Park Service, "Managing National Parks in the 21st Century: Can We Find Our Way?"
  • 1986: Dr. Dale McCullough, University of California-Berkeley, "Ecology of the White-tailed Deer: Fifty Years Later"
  • 1985: Dr. Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University, "Nuclear Winter"
  • 1984: Dr. Norman Myers, Oxford, England, "The Sinking Ark: Environmental, Economic, and Political Solutions to the World Wildlife Crisis"
  • 1983: Dr. Fred Cooke, Queen's University, "Long-Term Studies of Snow Geese in the Arctic"
  • 1982: Dr. John J. Magnuson, University of Wisconsin-Madison, "A Second Look at Lakes: As Islands"
  • 1981: Russell W. Peterson, National Audubon Society, "The Accumulating Threats to Life"
  • 1980: Dr. Maurice Hornocker, University of Idaho, "Mountain Lion and Wolverine Research in Wilderness Labs"
  • 1979: Dr. Roger S. Payne, New York Zoological Society, "Voices in the Sea: Communication Among Whales"
  • 1978: Dr. A. Starker Leopold, University of California-Berkeley, "Australian Wildlife: Some Conservation Dilemmas"
  • 1977: Dr. George B. Schaller, New York Zoological Society, "The Serengeti Lion"
  • 1976: Dr. Valerius Geist, University of Calgary, "A Naturalist Footloose in Anthropology"
  • 1975: Dr. L. David Mech, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, "Wolf Ecology in Minnesota"
  • 1974: Dr. Arthur D. Hasler, University of Wisconsin, "Olfactory Imprinting and Homing in Salmonid Fishes"
  • 1973: Mr. Gordon Gullion, University of Minnesota, "An Ecological Basis for Ruffed Grouse Management"
  • 1972: Mr. Robert Ardrey, Author and Lecturer, "Population Control"
  • 1971: Dr. Clarence Cottam, Welder Wildlife Foundation, "America's Endangered Species--Why be Concerned and What Can Individuals Do About It"
  • 1970: Mr. William H. Stickel, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, "Recent Research on the Effects of Persistent Pesticides on Birds"
  • 1969: Dr. Homer S. Swingle, Auburn University, "Man and His Future"
  • 1968: Mr. Frank C. Bellrose, Jr., Illinois Natural History Survey, "Investigating the Physical Nature of Bird Migration"
  • 1967: Dr. Dennis H. Chitty, University of British Columbia, "Speculation and Scholarship-- the Peter and Paul of Scientific Investigation"
  • 1966: Dr. Frederick Hamerstrom, Wisconsin Conservation Department, "The Prairie Cock: A Symbol"
  • 1965: Dr. Walter Breckenridge, University of Minnesota, "Island Treasure"
  • 1964: Dr. Durward L. Allen, Purdue University, "Wolves and Moose of Isle Royale"