Dr. Charles van Riper III

Professor, School of Natural Resources and the Environment
USGS Research Scientist Emeritus  

Sonoran Desert Research Station
125 Biological Sciences East ~ University of Arizona ~Tucson, AZ 85721-125
(520) 626-7027 ~ (520) 670-5100 fax ~ (520) 491-0721 call

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Personal History

Charles van Riper spent his formative years roaming the woods throughout the Hudson River Valley in New York.  The many hours that he spent observing wildlife as a young person, instilled in him a love for nature and provided a road map that he would follow throughout his life.

Following graduation from Mahopac Central High School in upstate New York, he entered college.  After being tutored on woodwind instruments at Julliard, he enrolled at SUNY Fredonia.  But then following his love of nature, moved to Fort Collins, Colorado to study wildlife management at Colorado State University.   For the next eight years he was trained by some of the preeminent wildlife biologists in the western US.  He studied ornithology under Dr. Paul H. Baldwin pdf, who told stories about the spectacular adaptive radiation of the Hawaiian honeycreepers.  This peaked Charles' interest and in 1968 he moved to the island of Hawaii.  While teaching biology at the Hawaii Preparatory Academy in Kamuela, Hawaii, he began his first intensive study of birds, setting a focused trajectory for the remainder of his life.  He taught his first ornithology class in 1969 to a select group of students, and many of that class have gone on to successful professional careers, but all still have a deep interest in nature and the study of birds. 

Charles then went to complete his doctoral research under the guidance of Dr. Andrew J. Berger at the University of Hawaii, Manoa (UH).  His PhD dissertation was completed in 1979 on two species of Hawaiian native birds (honeycreepers), the Hawaii Amakihi and the endangered Palila.  It was in graduate school that Charles met his wife, Sandra Jean Guest, another ornithology graduate student.  Following a  post-doctoral experience with Dr. Clifford Smith in the UH Botany Deprtment, where Charles and his wife Sandra worked out the complex picture of the impact that introduced diseases were having on the native Hawaiian birds, he moved to the University of California, Davis.

At UC Davis, Charles started the first California Cooperative Parks Studies Unit (CPSU) , and began his 20-year career melding university positions with the National Park Service.  This dual responsibility was focused on enhancing better intergration of research results into resources management actions.  While at UC Davis in California, Charles continued his research on avian disease and also addressed many of the pressing research/resource management issues affecting bird communities in national parks throughout California, with studies conducted on the Channel Islands NP, Pinnacles NM, Lassen NP, Whiskey town NRA, Yosemite NP, and other national parks in the west.

In 1989 the National Park Service asked Charles to initiate another Cooperative Parks Studies Unit, this time at Northern Arizona University (NAU) in Flagstaff, Arizona.  He established this unit based on an ecosystem concept, covering all national park areas within the four states (Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah) that comprise the "4-Corners Area" of the Colorado Plateau.  Charles built this unit from one individual, to a team of 42 researchers, who as an integrated research team, solved natural resources problems throughout the southwestern US.  While serving as a Professor in the Biology Deprtamtn at NAU, Charles continued his efforts to enhance the integration of research into resource management actions.  In 1989 he initated the Colorado Plateau Biennial Confernce that continues today, bringing scientists and resource managers together every other year to share research findings and land management resource needs.  The 12 books that Charles produced from these Biennial Conferences, document several decades of the evolution of integrating research into resource management actions over the Colorado Plateau.

In 2003 Charles was again asked to assist with a university based research station, this time with the Sonoran Desert Research Station at the University of Arizona in Tucson,Arizona.  There he served as a Unit Leader and also as a Professor in the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Resources in the School of Natural Resources and the Environment.  From 2008 through 2014 Charles was one of six biological ST Research Scientists in the Department of Interior.  Charles is now in an Emeritus position with the US Geological Survey and the School of Natural Resources and the Environment at the University of Arizona.


Family History

Born and raised in upstate New York, Charles found himself in the same geographic region that former family members had occupied for the past several centuries, since the first Van Riper sailed from the Netherlands (Holland) in 1643 for New Amsterdam (now New York City) in the New World.  In tracing back through the Van Riper family, former ancestors have always resided in either New York or Bergen County New Jersey, with one family branch splitting off to Michigan, another to Colorado, and one to the West Coast.

Charles has two younger brothers, Dr. Gary G. Van Riper who now resides in Morrison, Colorado and Lt. Commander Drew F. Van Riper in Manassas, Virginia.  His parents were from New York, Dorothy May Wilson and Charles Van Riper, as were their parents.

Charles has a son, Charles (Kale) van Riper IV, and three lovely daughters (Jacqueline, Kimberly, and Carena).  To learn more about his family, you can browse through the family Christmas Letters:   2004   2005   2006    2007  2008   2009  2010  2011  2012 2013  2014


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