Bulmer, Walter (Deceased)
Northern Virginia Community College
Vertebrate Ecology
Walt was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, on July 11, 1942. Walt was raised in Lordship on Long Island Sound where wildlife became his main interest early in life. As a boy, he constructed a backyard pond for turtles and became increasingly interested in herpetology. Birds, however, have always been his primary interest. Walt’s knowledge of bird behavior increased through his hobby of egg collecting. As a young member of the Fairfield Audubon Society, Walt’s involvement with bird study intensified. Spring bird walks and Christmas counts became regular events through his teenage years. This is where Walt met Roger Tory Peterson, who often helped with difficult identification points. These experiences left a lasting impression and greatly influenced Walt’s decision to pursue ornithology. Walt earned his undergraduate degree in 1964 from Salem College in West Virginia. During this time he held a teaching assistant position in biology and taught ornithology as a senior. Walt attended the University of Arizona for a master’s degree in ornithology. While there, Walt’s herpetological background landed him a research fellowship from the virology lab. The focus of the research was to find evidence of encephalitis virus in blood and tissue samples taken from hundreds of snakes. Walt learned how to collect and prepare museum specimens of birds and mammals while at the University of Arizona. Numerous field trips with Steve Russell, Richard Crossin, and Bob Ohmart produced many specimens for the University’s collections. Besides his shotgun, Walt’s collecting equipment often included a couple of warm Schaefer beers in his backpack. Through the years, Schaefer beer has become a Bulmer trademark. Walt’s research on the life history of the red-faced warbler was the subject of his master’s thesis. This study was presented at the Cooper Ornithological Society’s annual meeting in 1966. After graduation, Walt accepted a position with the Smithsonian Pacific Project. Chasing birds around the central Pacific, banding some 20,000 individuals, and collecting and preparing specimens for the National Museum fully occupied the next two years. Walt then entered into a doctoral program at the University of Connecticut under George Clark. Here he was awarded a demi-scholarship. The next two years were spent as a lab assistant, teaching vertebrate zoology classes and collecting specimens for the University of Connecticut Natural History Museum. Several publications resulted from these efforts. During the summer of 1969, Walt returned to the Smithsonian to work on dissertation data collected during the Pacific Project. This is when he was offered a teaching position at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale. Walt accepted the offer and since then has taught biology, human anatomy and physiology, and vertebrate zoology at the college. In addition, Walt has taught tropical ecology to hundreds of students, leading field trips to the West Indies and Central America. Walt has taught summer courses at Kapiolani Community College in Honolulu, Hawaii. Many of Walt’s local field trips have provided the data for Fairfax County’s environmental baseline studies. Walt’s collections, housed at Northern Virginia Community College, have provided data for numerous publications on Virginia herps and mammals. Among Walt’s greatest achievements, however, has been to inspire hundreds of his students to pursue careers in the field of biology. Walt has been happily married to his wife, Judy, since 1977. He is extremely proud of their three grown children, Anthony, Michelle, and Michael. Walt’s first association with the Washington Biologists’ Field Club was as a guest of Al Gardner for several fall and spring feasts at the Island. He also was involved with several work parties at the Island including the construction of a new roof for the cabin. He was elected to the Washington Biologists’ Field Club in 1998 and was elected secretary in 1999.