Wilson, Don E. (Active)
United States National Museum of Natural History
Don was born in Davis, Oklahoma, on April 30, 1944. He lived in Nebraska, Texas, Oregon, and Washington as a youth and graduated from High School in Bisbee, Arizona, in 1961. He received a BS degree in wildlife management from the University of Arizona in Tucson in 1965. As an undergraduate, he made his first trip to the tropics in 1964, and has returned each year since to conduct research on mammals. After a summer spent working for the National Park Service in a fire tower in Grand Canyon National Park, he attended graduate school at the University of New Mexico, where he received an MS degree in 1967 and a PhD degree in 1970, both in biology. He also spent a summer working for the U.S. Forest Service as a naturalist in the Sandia Mountains. His master’s thesis dealt with ecological relationships of five species of deer mice in the Sandia Mountains of New Mexico. His doctoral dissertation was on a small tropical insectivorous bat of Panama. Don began a long-term association with the Organization for Tropical Studies in 1968, and has returned to Costa Rica to teach in their tropical biology courses regularly ever since. In addition, he lived in Costa Rica for 15 months, studying seed predators on a National Science Foundation post-doctoral fellowship through the University of Chicago. He is a past chairman of the board of the Organization for Tropical Studies. In 1971, Don was hired as a research zoologist by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and stationed with the Biological Survey Unit at the National Museum of Natural History. He served as chief of the Mammal Section from 1973 to 1978, chief of the Museum Section from 1978 to 1983, and chief of the Biological Survey from 1983 to 1990. He was named director of Biodiversity Programs at the Smithsonian in September, 1990. In 2000, he returned to the Division of Mammals as senior scientist and curator of mammals. Don served as president of the American Society of Mammalogists from 1986 to 1988. He is past-president of the Association for Tropical Biology as well. He was the editor of the Journal of Mammalogy for five years and of Mammalian Species and Special Publications for three years. Don also serves on several editorial boards. He is on the scientific board of directors of Bat Conservation International, The Biodiversity Foundation for Africa, Integrated Conservation Research, and The Lubee Foundation. Don is the writer of over 200 scientific publications including books on the Mammals of New Mexico, three monographs on bats, three volumes on Biodiversity, and Mammal species of the World. In 1997, he published Bats in Question - The Smithsonian Answer Book. In recent years, he has edited a series of books for the Educational Publisher, Dorling Kindersley, including Animal, Human, the Smithsonian Handbook of Mammals, and Mammal. He also wrote a field guide of North American mammals and the Smithsonian Book of North American Mammals. He has given over 70 papers at scientific meetings. His research on bats has taken him to more than 65 countries around the world. He is the recipient of a Smithsonian Institution Award for Excellence in Tropical Biology, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Outstanding Publication Award, a Reconocimiento for Outstanding Contributions to Science from the Associacion Mexicana de Mastozoologia, the Gerritt S. Miller Award from the North American Symposium on Bat Research, and the Hartley H. T. Jackson Award of the American Society of Mammalogists. He recently received the American Society of Mammologists’ highest award: honorary membership. Don resides near Gainesville, Virginia, with his wife, Kate, whom he married in 1962, a retired middle school counselor in the Fairfax County Public School System. They have two daughters: Wendy, who teaches in Fairfax County; and Kristy, who teaches at Northern Illinois University; and four granddaughters. Don was elected to the Washington Biologists’ Field Club in 1974, and has served as chairman of the house and grounds and biological survey committees, as well as vice-president from 1990 to 1993 and president from 1993 to 1996.