Taza Schaming

Bert has been such an inspiration to me from the very beginning of my field work in Jackson in 2009. I came to town to study Clark’s nutcrackers and whitebark pine, and was determined and full of enthusiasm, but didn’t even know how or where to find the birds, never mind catch them. I started asking everyone who I should talk to, and all paths led to Bert. Pretty soon I was in Bert’s living room, tossing around ideas, and he had something to add to every concept – thoughts on bird behavior, people I should contact, new questions.

Over the years, I’d swing by and of course first walk his dog, then once again launch into discussing my research (or whatever beautiful bird one of us had just seen, or whatever fascinating story one of us had just heard). Bert never ceased to meet me with new ideas, questions and anecdotes that made me sit back and think about things differently. And Bert’s influence didn’t stop there.

The Jackson Hole Bird Club, with Bert at its head upon my arrival into town, gave me the support I most needed to keep trying to figure out how to do my research. On the Raynes Fund website, there’s a quote from Meg, “Honey, we can do it”, and Bert embodied this tiny, hugely important concept – I left every conversation with him feeling like I could do anything.

I plan to continue the nutcracker-whitebark pine research long-term, as I discover the more answers I find, the more questions I have, and when I sit back and think about the big picture of this lifetime project, I have this image of Bert and the Bird Club nurturing the seedling of the research as, through trial and error, I figured out how to make it work. Bert was instrumental of the success of the research and my career, through his science, wisdom and genuine care. I am proud to have been the first recipient of a grant from the Meg and Bert Raynes Wildlife Fund – I was honored to have received the call from Chuck Schneebeck saying Bert wants to help fund your work, can you use the funds (absolutely!), and if so, can you work with us to figure out how to do this (absolutely!). It is amazing to see all the incredible, important projects that have since been funded.

And then, these past few years, after I experienced deep loss in my life, I returned again and again to thinking about Bert: I know that the way he emerged from the depths of his grief over losing Meg was to create the Raynes Wildlife Fund, to help protect one small slice of the world that he knew and loved. A huge part of what has allowed me to heal from my grief, is knowing I am helping protect that same small slice of paradise. When I found out that Bert had died, my first thought was “I am so grateful he met my daughter”, and my second was “he lived such a long, good life, and he played such a big role in so many of our lives, he’s still here”. Thank you Bert.

– Taza Schaming, May, 2021

Photo credits: Taza Schaming