In the early 1970s, researchers and students from Humboldt State University in northern California conducted daily counts of Aleutian cackling geese leaving their roost near Castle Rock for mainland pastures. Paul Springer—Doc to those who knew him—would help.


“He was so detailed that when individual flock counts did not match, even by less than five birds, he would immediately recount and then make a notation that he would bring up at the end of fly–off to iron out the discrepancies,” recalls Jock Beall, supervisory refuge biologist at Willamette Valley National Wildlife Refuge Complex, OR.


Beall remembers Springer’s legendary filing system: “The stacks on the desk in his Arcata office were so high you could barely see him sitting behind it. But when you walked in, he never failed to pull what he needed from some giant pile. I use a similar system today.”


Springer worked as a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service research biologist from 1947 to 1984, serving on the recovery team that rebuilt the Aleutian goose population and helped ensure that the geese’s roosting site off the California coast would become Castle Rock National Wildlife Refuge. He negotiated with landowners, farmers and government officials to conserve foraging areas for wintering geese on privately owned fields. His work helped boost the goose population to about 100,000, prompting him to say, “I guess we may have over–succeeded.”


Springer was highly regarded by Humboldt State students and refuge biologists/managers he mentored. “He was a powerful influence and an extremely critical editor—fair, but infamous for his late–night phone calls,” says Eric Nelson, manager of Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The Paul Springer Student Award is given to the best student poster at the biennial Humboldt Bay Symposium to honor Springer’s contributions to understanding of the bay’s ecology.


Since Springer’s death in 2007, professional accolades have poured in, but one of his four sons, Peter, treasures a more personal memory: “We’d get up at 4 in the morning, and he would sometimes take one of us along to count birds. He would share some hot soup from his thermos, and I would think this is just about the coolest thing I could be doing with my dad.”