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Lancelot Eric Richdale

Dr L.E. Richdale, 1900-1983. Dr Richdale is probably best known for his efforts to protect the royal albatross colony at Taiaroa Head near Dunedin at a time when public support for the principles of conservation was limited. He spent long hours guarding albatross nests at Taiaroa Head in order to protect the eggs. The Otago branch of the Royal Society of New Zealand was eventually able to establish a sanctuary for the birds, and the Richdale Observatory at Taiaroa Head was opened in 1983.

Dr Richdale spent the largest part of his life and is remembered by thousands of Otago city and rural students and their teachers as ‘Mr Rich’ the ‘Nature Study Man’. His main interest had been in alpine flora, but in 1936 he was introduced to the study of birds - initially the yellow-eyed penguin and the royal albatross.

Over the next 30 years, in spite of a teaching job, he undertook field research in many remote locations. This resulted in over 105 scientific books, papers and popular articles on a wide range of birds, mainly seabirds. His work on the sexual behaviour of penguins became his most famous work and earned him a international reputation.

A Fulbright fellowship awarded in 1950 enabled him to study at Cornell University, New York state. On his return he received a Nuffield Foundation grant for work on animal ecology and population studies. He was an honorary lecturer at the University of Otago from 1940 to 1952, and received a DSc in 1952 and the Hector Memorial Medal and Prize of the Royal Society of New Zealand in 1953. He was a fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand, fellow of the Linnean Society of London, and a founding member of the Ornithological Society of New Zealand. In 1982 he was appointed an OBE for services to ornithology.

Credit: Dictionary of New Zealand Biography
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