Celebrating Archie Carr and sea turtles
By Donna Braunlich
If you have a moment, I would like to share with you a story about a man who is special to us at the Sea Turtle Preservation Society and to residents throughout Brevard County and Florida. Every year about this time, our thoughts turn to him and his accomplishments as we approach his birthday, June 16, which is the same day we celebrate World Sea Turtle Day – and that is not a coincidence! My story is about Dr. Archie Carr, the man recognized as the father of sea turtle research and conservation.
Archie Carr was born in 1909 in Mobile, Alabama; his father was a Presbyterian minister and his mother a piano teacher. Archie’s interest in wildlife began at an early age. It was his father who instilled in him his love of nature and wildlife. The backyard of his home where he grew up was filled with cages of snakes, lizards and turtles.
He studied zoology at the University of Florida, where he specialized in herpetology and further refined that interest to the study of turtles and eventually became one of the world’s foremost authorities on sea turtles. From UF, he received a bachelor’s degree in 1932 and his M.S. in 1934. In 1937, Archie received his Ph.D. in zoology, the first granted in zoology by UF, where he taught for most of his life.
That year he married Marjorie Harris, who became a well-known biologist and Florida environmentalist. They had five children: one daughter, who is a professional actress, and four sons, who have pursued careers in conservation biology.
Archie’s interest and passion in sea turtles continued to develop throughout his life. One of the traits he is know for is his ability to transfer that interest and passion to those around him either in the classroom or through his books. His classes at UF were so popular that students vied with one another to take one. His classes frequently included field trips, which were legendary according to his students. He wrote 11 books and over 120 scientific articles about sea turtles and their habitats.
He passed away May 21, 1987, but his legacy lives on. After his death, he was honored with the creation of the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge in Florida and the Dr. Archie Carr Wildlife Refuge in Costa Rica. In addition, the Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research at the University of Florida and the Sea Turtle Conservancy, the world’s oldest sea turtle organization, were a direct result of his interest and passion.
Thanks for listening! I hope his story inspired you to learn more about sea turtles. Perhaps you will think of Archie about this same time next year, too!
Books by Archie Carr
- Carr, Archie (1952). Handbook of Turtles; the Turtles of the United States, Canada, and Baja California.
- Carr, Archie (1953). High Jungles and Low.
- Carr, Archie, and Coleman J. Goin (1955). Guide to the Reptiles, Amphibians, and Fresh-water Fishes of Florida.
- Carr, Archie (1963). The Reptiles (Series: LIFE Nature Library).
- Carr, Archie (1964). Ulendo: Travels of a Naturalist in and out of Africa.
- Carr, Archie (1967, 1984). So Excellent a Fishe: A Natural History of Sea Turtles. (ISBN 0-292-77595-4).
- Carr, Archie (1973). The Everglades. (Time-Life Book).
- Carr, Archie (1979). The Windward Road ( ISBN 0-8130-0639-2). Carr, Archie (June 26, 2013: ISBN 978-0307832115).
- Carr, Archie (Marjorie Carr, editor) (1994). A Naturalist in Florida: A Celebration of Eden. (ISBN 0-300-05589-7). Carr, Archie (September 1996: ISBN 978-0300068542) pbk.
- Carr, Archie. (1968). Ulendo: Travels of a Naturalist In and Out of Africa. (ISBN-13: 978-0813011790)
- Carr, Archie. (1992). High Jungles and Low. (ISBN-13: 978-0813011356)
For a brief article about the life of Archie Carr:
For more extensive information about the life of Archie Carr, this book provides a great opportunity to learn more:
Davis, Frederick R. (2007) The Man Who Saved Sea Turtles: Archie Carr and the Origins of Conservation Biology (ISBN-13: 9780195310771)
ABSTRACT: Archie Carr, one of the greatest biologists of the 20th century, played a leading part in finding a new and critical role for natural history and systematics in a post-1950s world, which was dominated by the glamorous science of molecular biology. With the rise of molecular biology came a growing popular awareness of species extinction. This biography reveals how Carr championed endangered sea turtles, and the ways in which his work reflected major shifts in the study of ecology, evolution, and conservation. A gifted nature writer, Carr’s books and lectures on the natural history of sea turtles and their habitats in Florida, the Caribbean, and Africa entertained and educated a wide audience. Carr’s conservation ethic grew from his field work as well as his friendships with the fishermen and other locals who supplied him with many of the stories he retold so engagingly. With Archie Carr as the focus, this book explores the evolution of the naturalist tradition, biology, and conservation during the 20th century.