In Memoriam: Robert C. Stebbins

Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of CaliforniaUC Press is sad to note the passing of renowned herpetologist, Robert C. Stebbins, who died in his home on Monday at the age of 98. Stebbins was a Professor of Zoology at the University of California, Berkeley, a curator of the University’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, and the author of over a dozen books, including, most recently, Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of California. Stebbins contributed richly detailed color paintings of the species in the book, just as he did for his landmark reference, A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians.

Described by Alan St. John, author of Reptiles of the Northwest, as the “elder herpetological master of the American West,” Stebbins will be remembered for his groundbreaking scholarship in the field of Natural History, his passion for environmental education, his desert conservation efforts, and for the three amphibians and reptiles named after him: Ambystoma tigrinum stebbinsi, Anniella stebbinsi, and Batrachoseps stebbensi.

Harry W. Greene, a colleague of Stebbins’ and his successor at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, remembered him this way:

As a high school student, I first wrote to Bob Stebbins inquiring about careers in herpetology, and thus it was truly an honor, in 1978, to succeed him as a Curator of Herpetology in the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology. Of course Bob didn’t really retire, he just put all of his time and energy thereafter into field work, painting, public education, and conservation. He was wonderfully thoughtful to me, not once over the next 20 years commenting on ways I chose to do my job, yet always generous with advice when I asked for it. He was an understated but brilliant teacher, above all a superb naturalist, and he left a huge mark on the herpetology of western North America.

You can read tributes to Robert C. Stebbins at National Geographic, (bio)accumulationKPCC, and the Daily Cal.