Johnston, David W. (Deceased)
Born in Miami, Florida, on November 23, 1926, David was raised in Atlanta, Georgia, where nature study and birds learned in the Boy Scouts became his prime interests. Under the training of Eugene P. Odum, he graduated from the University of Georgia with a BS degree in 1949 and an MS degree in 1950 in ecology and ornithology, while studying the relationships between plant succession and bird populations. Further training under Alden H. Miller at the University of California, Berkeley, led to a PhD degree in 1954; the subject was the life cycle of the California gull. At his first academic position at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia in 1954, David’s interests in natural history, ornithology, and ecology intensified. There, he conducted research on bird distribution in the state, and served as editor of Georgia’s bird journal, The Oriole. Academic moves to Wake Forest University in 1959 and the University of Florida in 1963 brought contacts with leading ornithologists such as Pierce Brodkorb and Oliver L. Austin, Jr., as well as an outstanding teacher’s award in 1973. He assumed a leadership role in the Florida Ornithological Society, becoming its president in 1973. Research in those days centered on bird migration, physiological ecology, and anatomy of the avian uropygial gland. David frequently attended national ornithological and ecology meetings, where he gave papers, and was editor of Bird-Banding and Ornithological Monographs, each for many years. Several grants from the National Science Foundation led to research on birds in Jamaica, Wake Island, the Cayman Islands, Belize, Malawi, and Alaska. He taught ornithology for 20 years at the Mountain Lake Biological Station of the University of Virginia, where he guided several students into careers in ornithology. Decades of field research led to publication of a book dealing with the birdlife in the Mountain Lake region. While still a professor of zoology at the University of Florida, David was invited to become ecology program director of the National Science Foundation in Washington, D.C., in 1979. There he worked with the nation’s leading ecologists and expanded his interests in ecology and natural resource conservation. After a short stint at George Mason University, professional positions included project director at the National Academy of Sciences and consultant to the World Bank and World Wildlife Fund. David served as book editor for the Wildlife Management Institute (on the moose), Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (threatened and endangered species), the U.S. Forest Service (forest management practices), and Smithsonian Institution Press (neotropical migrant birds). A co-edited book on Ecology and Conservation of Neotropical Migrants received the best-edited book award from The Wildlife Society . Following his retirement from academia, David has played a prominent role in Virginia ornithology by serving on the board of directors of the Virginia Society of Ornithology, editing its avifauna series, and publishing A Guide to Bird Finding in Virginia, a best-seller. Additional current interests include bird taxidermy for local nature centers, consulting with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Law Enforcement, identifying feathers from hawk and peregrine falcon foods, breeding bird surveys on Plummers Island, and writing books on the ecology of Dyke Marsh and the history of ornithology in Virginia. Over his professional life, David has published over 100 scientific papers, four books, and edited several other books of national and international significance. David was elected to the Washington Biologists’ Field Club in 1983 and has been active on several committees including the biological survey. David W. Johnston passed away on July 26th, 2015 at his home in Fairfax as a result of advanced prostate cancer. Dave became a member of the WBFC in 1983. He was an active member serving on several committees including the Biological Survey Committee and he was elected to emeritus status several years ago. Dave was an ornithologist and ecologist who worked on the Survey of Breeding Birds of Plummers Island and published or edited more than 100 peer reviewed papers and 7 books. Since obtaining his PhD in 1954, Dave devoted his life to ornithology as a professor, author, project director and consultant.