Perhaps like so many, I knew of Bert Raynes and his wife, Meg years before I really got to know them personally. Looking back, I attribute that lapse to being preoccupied with my graduate research and later because my consulting and film work took me out of the valley for extended periods of time.
All that changed when I took a stay-at-home job with the Conservation Alliance, which in turn allowed me to become more locally involved. Consequently, I became a regular reader of Bert’s weekly newspaper column: “Field Notes,” later titled “Far Afield”, and began attending events where our paths often crossed.
However, it was during this last decade that I had the pleasure of spending extended time with Bert, discussing bird sightings and environmental (and political) issues of the day. Our conversations typically culminated with having more questions raised than answered. That was part of Bert’s magic; as a self-taught naturalist, nearly any subject fascinated him, he never stopped searching for answers and was always happy to share his insights.
Bert’s humble demeanor and rare ability to see and translate the wonders of the natural world coupled with his fidelity to science came through in his writings. Bert was justifiably embraced as Jackson Hole’s most trusted go-to naturalist.
It’s impossible to know how many folks he introduced to the beauty and complexity of the natural world through his writings. Or how many nature enthusiasts he encouraged to enter the world of citizen scientist, or how many young- and not so young scientists he personally mentored. I do know that as a result of his knowledge and provocative questions, our many conversations left me with a determination to do more- to continue asking questions and using science to identify answers.
As Bert and Meg grew older and their ability to get into the field diminished, they began wondering what more they could do. Being aware that many important research projects were often lost or abbreviated for lack of financial support and shortly after Meg’s passing, Bert established the Meg and Bert Raynes Wildlife Fund. To date the fund has supported over 60 regional wildlife research projects, many of which have been affiliated with NRCC.
The natural world lost an ardent defender with the passing of Bert on the first day of this year. I can think of no better way to commemorate his life then to continue his passionate love of the natural world than by supporting the many institutions and individuals seeking truth through science, and sharing that truth through stories.
The following are just a few reflections shared by some of Bert’s many nature-loving friends.
– Franz Camenzind, May 2021