Trevor Kincaid Born (1872)

Trevor Kincaid called himself an “omnologist,” a biologist interested in everything.  His legacy proves out his assertion, as he made enormous contributions to entomology and fisheries, both in taxonomy and practical applications.

Trevor Kincaid

Trevor Kincaid was born in Ontario in 1872 (died 1970).  His family fell on hard times and moved west to find better fortune in Olympia, Washington, when he was 17.  He worked a variety of jobs before eventually enrolling at the University of Washington in 1894, at the age of 22.  He proved to be an exceptional student, studying entomology and discovering several insect species before he graduated.  He gained a regional and national reputation while still an undergraduate.

In fact, it took him some time to graduate.  Before he could complete his degree, he was invited to accompany Stanford University President David Starr Jordan in 1897 on an expedition to Alaska as part of the American Fur Seal Commission.  There he studied the conditions of the fur seal of the Pribilof Islands.  Jordan was so impressed by Kincaid that he tried to convince him to transfer to Stanford.  But the University of Washington intervened, doubling his salary as a research assistant.

Two years later, Kincaid was again tempted by an Alaskan expedition.  He was invited as one of 23 scientists to be part of the Harriman Alaska Expedition, the youngest person to accompany the likes of John Muir (learn more about Muir here) and John Burroughs .  He later remarked that as the expedition was leaving the dock, “my classmates were lining up to receive their diplomas.”  He chose well, however, studying the rich insect life of glaciers in Alaska for two months.  “The presence of a glacier,” he observed, “does not necessarily mean the absence of life.” In the succeeding years, he described and named 344 new insect species from that expedition.

The Friday Harbor Lab, sometime before 1930 (photo by John Nathan Cobb)

In 1901, he became a faculty member at the University of Washington, where he stayed throughout his career, retiring as head of the Department of Zoology in 1937 at the mandatory age of 65.  His “Adventures of an Omnologist,” as he termed his informal autobiography, began in earnest at the university.  In 1903, he established what is now known as the Friday Harbor Laboratories, a research and teaching station on Puget Sound that has become synonymous with world-class field education.  On behalf of the government, in 1908, he was sent to Russia and Japan to identify and bring back a natural enemy of the invasive gypsy moth that was eating the forests and crops of New England.  He succeeded, and the parasite was bred and used for decades by the U.S. government to control gypsy moths.

Kincaid in his lab in dthe 1950s (photo by J. W. Thompson, Office of Washington Secretary of State)

In 1911, he transferred his interests to fisheries.  Specifically, he was charged with bringing the declining Puget Sound oyster fisheries back to profitability.  Attempts to farm Atlantic oysters failed in Washington, so Kincaid went again to Japan and returned with specimens of Pacific oysters.  These thrived in Puget Sound and became the basis for a renewed oyster farming industry.  After his retirement from the university, Kincaid invested in these fisheries, so that he thrived as well!  His ongoing work in fisheries formed the basis of the University of Washington’s College of Fisheries, one of the world’s leaders in both theoretical and applied research.

Kincaid’s influence on entomology and fisheries were substantial.  Many insect species are named after him, as is the building housing the University of Washington’s Department of Biology.

References:

Archives West.  Trevor Kincaid papers, 1890-1975.  Available at:  http://archiveswest.orbiscascade.org/ark:/80444/xv55081.  Accessed December 20, 2017.

Public Broadcasting Service.  Trevor Kincaid, 1872-1970.  Available at:  http://www.pbs.org/harriman/1899/1899_part/participantkincaid.html.  Accessed December 20, 2017

This Month in Conservation

February 1
Afobaka Dam and Operation Gwamba (1964)
February 2
Groundhog Day
February 3
George Adamson, African Lion Rehabilitator, Born (1906)
February 4
Congress Overrides President Reagan’s Veto of Clean Water Act (1987)
February 5
National Wildlife Federation Created (1936)
February 6
Colin Murdoch, Inventor of the Tranquilizer Gun, Born (1929)
February 7
Karl August Mobius, Ecology Pioneer, Born (1825)
February 8
President Johnson Addresses Congress about Conservation (1965)
February 8
Lisa Perez Jackson, Environmental Leader, Born (1982)
February 9
U.S. Fish Commission Created (1871)
February 10
Frances Moore Lappe, author of Diet for a Small Planet, born (1944)
February 11
International Day of Women and Girls in Science
February 12
Judge Boldt Affirms Native American Fishing Rights (1974)
February 13
Thomas Malthus Born (1766)
February 14
Nature’s Faithful Lovers
February 15
Complete Human Genome Published (2001)
February 16
Kyoto Protocol, Controlling Greenhouse-Gas Emissions, Begins (2005)
February 16
Alvaro Uglade, Father of Costa Rica’s National Parks, Born (1946)
February 17
Sombath Somphone, Laotian Environmentalist, Born (1952)
February 17
R. A. Fischer, Statistician, Born (1890)
February 18
Julia Butterfly Hill, Tree-Sitter, Born (1974)
February 18
World Pangolin Day
February 19
Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial Established (1962)
February 20
Ansel Adams, Nature Photographer, Born (1902)
February 21
Carolina Parakeet Goes Extinct (1918)
February 22
Nile Day
February 23
Italy’s Largest Inland Oil Spill (2010)
February 24
Joseph Banks, British Botanist, Born (1743)
February 25
First Federal Timber Act Passed (1799)
February 26
Four National Parks Established (1917-1929)
February 27
International Polar Bear Day
February 28
Watson and Crick Discover The Double Helix (1953)
February 29
Nature’s Famous Leapers
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