Colleagues thank Carl Herzog for his impact on their careers and bat conservation

There are two things you should know about Carl Herzog: He does not like recognition, and he greatly deserves it. 

The world of bats will never be the same thanks to Herzog’s contributions. And there are large shoes to fill after his retirement from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC) after 20 years of service.  

“He is amazing in his breadth of knowledge, analytical skills, and ability to see what is truly important,” said Al Hicks, fellow retired NYDEC wildlife biologist, reminiscing about working alongside Herzog. Throughout his career, Herzog’s knack for technology, natural teaching abilities, and insight influenced the study and management of bats, as well as the lives of the biologists working to conserve these special creatures. Herzog’s retirement in 2022 was felt in the world of bat research, where his colleagues remember his efforts and express their gratitude for his impact. 

Radio wizard 

During his time with the department, Herzog was a Renaissance man. He was involved in a diverse array of projects: radio-tracking bats, designing methods to test tracking devices, developing cave photo-survey methods, inventing temperature-humidity sensors, testing and refining acoustic identification software, and more.  

Comparing Herzog to renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the father of modern-day wildlife ecology, Hicks said, “With all respect to Aldo, we would often ask ‘What would Carl do,’” when presented with difficult decisions. Hicks added with a chuckle, “He didn’t suffer fools easily, although he did suffer me.”  

Herzog’s training as a radio engineer gave him a technical insight that most biologists lack. He was able to take a step back, analyze the issue, tinker with the equipment and solve problems that, as Hicks said, “no one in the Northeast associated with wildlife could’ve figured out.”  

Susi von Oettingen, a retired endangered species biologist with the Service, met Herzog in his early days working with the NYDEC and described him as “brilliant.” To her, Herzog has been “a coworker, friend, and mentor.” She reflected on his patience, ability to stay calm when others were ready to barge forward, and willingness to answer the phone and help. 

Carl Herzog

Calm, insightful and patient  

Herzog positively impacted many in the bat world, but he notably empowered women in the field.  

"I was the first female technician to work on the bat team,” said Kate Langwig, assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Virginia Tech. Langwig explained that at the time, there was a false sense that the field work involved was too rough and unsuitable for women. She expressed admiration for Herzog’s ability to recognize a need for different talents and pointed out that, after her, Herzog hired and trained several women technicians who have since pursued graduate degrees and continued their work in conservation.  

Langwig met Herzog while working for Hicks as a technician. After Hicks’ retirement, Herzog became her supervisor and continued to mentor her after she left NYDEC to pursue her doctorate and establish her research program at Virginia Tech. She expressed her admiration of Herzog’s respect for research and science, ability to ask the tough questions and willingness to be swayed by scientific evidence. "He's been an instrumental force in shaping the questions I frame my entire research program around,” said Langwig.  

Herzog also supervised wildlife technicians Samantha Hoff and Kate Ritzko at NYDEC. They recalled that conducting fieldwork with him was always an adventure and a learning experience. The hike in or out of a site turned into “nature’s classroom,” with Herzog pointing out animal tracks and plants and asking the technicians to identify them. Hoff also recalls his calm demeanor. “I once flipped head-over-heels while rappelling down a cave,” she said. Herzog calmly told her how to fix the situation while helping reduce her panic.  

Alyssa Benett, small mammal biologist for the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, described Herzog as a natural teacher and mentor. She worked with him for the better part of 10 years and recalled one project where she and Herzog installed solar panels in a remote setting on a mountain. She felt relieved Herzog was joining — so he could do the technical work. Instead, he told her matter-of-factly, “You can do this, and I’ll show you how.” 

From left to right: Sam Hoff, Carl Herzog, and Kate Ritzko.

Questioning accepted beliefs and working with others  

During his time in the bat world, Herzog pushed back on long-held ideas, provided rational opinions, and widened managers’ perspectives — all to find a way forward for bat conservation. Many people have counted on him for his logical mind and collaborative approach.  

“Bats don’t respect political boundaries,” Benett said jokingly, highlighting the importance of working together. “Herzog is an incredibly talented collaborator … always picked up the phone and was willing to give advice on our shared species.”  

“Researchers,” said Ritzko, “also relied on his knowledge and insight to guide their efforts outside of the department.” 

That kind of collaboration is valued these days as a deadly disease, white-nose syndrome, spreads across North America’s bat populations. The Service coordinates the White-nose Syndrome Response Team that includes biologists and researchers like Herzog, land managers, communicators and naturalists from federal and state agencies, universities, and non-governmental organizations to conserve and strengthen healthy bat populations. 

We’ll miss you 

Gratitude is a common theme when reflecting on Herzog, the “radio wizard.” Ritzko and Hoff said his retirement will be felt everywhere, and “the bat world will not be the same without him.” They are both grateful for the support he gave them.  

While Hicks hopes Herzog remains involved in the wildlife world, he knows his former colleague will continue to make the world a better place. Von Oettingen hopes to stay in touch, saying, “I don’t want to lose that connection; he can’t get rid of me that easily.” 

“Thank you,” Benett said, summing up the feelings many have expressed, “for being a mentor, challenging our ideas, and always picking up the phone.”  

A word from Carl 

When asked about his time working with bats, Herzog said his experience was unique and humbly praised his colleagues. “I’d never, in my previous career, worked in such a positive [place] with people who were so dedicated to doing well — not for their sake, but for the greater good,” he said. He remains impressed by the character of those he has worked with, their passion, and their inclination to work together across states and agencies. 

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