Professor emeritus receives field botany award
By Holly Bridges
The Field Botanists of Ontario, an organization devoted to botany and conservation, has awarded professor emeritus Adele Crowder its prestigious John Goldie Award for her “significant contribution to the advancement of field botany in Ontario.” Dr. Crowder received the award at the October meeting of the Kingston Field Naturalists.
“It was lovely to receive the award although I felt rather humbled as I never quite considered myself a field botanist,” said Dr. Crowder from her farm west of the village of Yarker.
Now 87, Dr. Crowder has devoted most of her life to studying and teaching the mysteries of plant ecology, paleoecology and biology. She graduated from Dublin University in 1947 and went on to complete her PhD on the chemistry of peat bogs; after working as a research associate in paleoecology at the University of Belfast.
Dr. Crowder arrived in Kingston in 1966 after her husband Chris began teaching history at Queen’s. With young children in tow, Dr. Crowder decided full-time work was not an option so she began her career at Queen’s teaching part-time in biology and paleoecology.
“Queen’s was very charming and very unprejudiced towards the female in those days so it was very nice. The men were great fun and a joy to work with,” recalls Dr. Crowder. “I was very fortunate indeed to have worked part-time doing what I loved as my children were still rather at sixes and sevens adjusting to the culture in Canada.”
She eventually became curator of the Fowler Herbarium, a mini-museum of sorts housing an exhaustive collection of rare plants. The herbarium had fallen into disrepair at the turn of the century and was in dire need of a facelift and some severe cataloguing. With funds from colleagues Bill Roff and Roland Beschel, Dr. Crowder breathed new life into the herbarium, using her classic European taxonomy training, which she describes as “very old-fashioned but very useful” adding “we knew enough Latin to find our way around so it was great fun.”
From her earliest days with the herbarium to her part-time lectureships and working with multiple colleagues to completely overhaul the biology curriculum in the 1970s, Dr. Crowder has been a trailblazer. Her passion for nature, the environment and for helping students learn environmental stewardship through study is most certainly her legacy. She is a passionate advocate for the protection of significant natural areas, and spent 10 years working to help remediate the invasion of Myriopphyllium and bluegreen algae in the Bay of Quinte.
When asked to describe her greatest accomplishment as a professor, a field botanist, a biologist and scientist, Dr. Crowder says without hesitation, “my students. Not just the doctoral ones. I mean students at all levels. I always enjoyed teaching.”
Dr. Crowder is still an avid nature lover and minimalist who believes in living simply, buying locally and without many of the modern-day trappings and gadgetry that can take us away from nature. That, she says, is one way of surviving a world that appears to be moving uncontrollably away from nature
“You’ve got to do your best. For someone like me it’s about education, trying to encourage people to live more simply, more naturally and to live with less ‘stuff’. Even as we try to move forward more responsibly with things such as solar and wind power, we are finding that some of these wind farms are being located in rare bird habitats. We have to educate people and keep on battling.”