Robert Stebbins, renowned field biologist, dies at 98

Stebbins obit

Courtesy of the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, UC Berkeley

Dr. Robert C. Stebbins was known in his field for his book "Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians." He passed away Monday, September 23, in his home in Eugene, Oregon, surrounded by family.

Robert C. Stebbins studied snakes, lizards, frogs and salamanders most of his life.

For local researchers in that field, known as herpetology, Stebbins' book "Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians" is indispensable.

The book, now in its 3rd edition, features detailed information about creatures up and down the California coast, complete with hand-painted pictures.

"He painted those things with water colors, painstakingly," explained Theodore Papenfuss, a researcher with the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at UC Berkeley.

Stebbins grew up near the mountains of Santa Monica, where as a kid he would explore the nature all around him. He joined the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology in 1945 and became the curator three years later.

Papenfuss says Stebbins was a pleasure to work with and knew about all sorts of species, from reptiles and amphibians to mammals and birds.

"He was just an all around, well rounded naturalist and a very easy going, pleasant person."  

In addition to his research, Stebbins was an early environmental advocate. In the 1970s he rallied others to help preserve parts of the California desert from off-road vehicles.

Earlier this month, a new species of legless lizard was named after him. The animal, known officially as Anniella stebbinsi, was found near LAX, close to where Stebbins himself once roamed as a curious boy.

Stebbins passed away Monday, September 23, in his home in Eugene, Oregon, surrounded by family.

More in Environment / Science


blog comments powered by Disqus