Open Spaces: Looking Back: Chandler Robbins

Looking Back: Chandler Robbins

Every so often it's good to look into the past to revisit the people who got us where we are today. 'Looking Back' is a series on the people who helped shape the National Wildlife Refuge System. The series is based on "A Look Back," a regular column written by Karen Leggett from the Refuge System Branch of Communications, which appears in each issue of the Refuge Update newsletter.

Chandler Robbins is 93 and can still be reached at his office at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland.

robbinsChandlerChandler Robbins (Photo: Barbara Dowell/USFWS)

Hired in 1945 as a junior biologist in the bird banding office at Patuxent Research Refuge, Robbins in 1965 initiated the North American Breeding Bird Survey, one of the world’s most influential science-based surveys of bird populations.

Although the project was met with some initial skepticism, today nearly 6,000 volunteers collect data every summer along more than 3,000 routes in North America.

Robbins participated in the survey until 2008, when hearing loss forced him to stop.

In addition to writing more than 500 professional publications, Robbins wrote A Guide to Field Identification of the Birds of North America with Bertel Bruun and Herbert Zim.

Robbins takes his greatest pride, though, in his work on the impact of forest fragmentation: “Maryland is the only state that is protecting wildlife habitat species for forest interior species by following my recommendations on the size of forests that are too large to be disturbed.”

A birder since the age of 12, Robbins officially retired in 2005 after 60 years of government service.

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Cynthia D. Ellis's Gravatar I learned to call screech owls from seeing Chan Robbins successfully do so. Tireless student of birds and great example! Thanks for featuring this birding hero.
# Posted By Cynthia D. Ellis | 9/6/12 7:17 AM
Ed Rykiel's Gravatar I am still telling stories about opening Operation Recovery in Ocean City with Chan Robbins and running the experimental breeding bird survey in 1965. And more than a few other stories. So nice to hear that he is still at it. Best regards to you Chan.
# Posted By Ed Rykiel | 9/7/12 12:56 PM
Matt Poole's Gravatar What a dedicated conservationist. 60 years! Not only that, but he continues to volunteer at Patuxent, now well into his 90s.

I met Chan in the course of taking Refuge Management Academy students to Patuxent Research Refuge during our field trip week. Spending time with Chan was always a highlight of our field trip to that storied research refuge. He was and, I suspect, remains very giving of his time.

A class act all the way!

Matt Poole, Parker River NWR
# Posted By Matt Poole | 9/7/12 2:30 PM

Last updated: June 21, 2012