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Michael A. Mares: 1945—: Mammologist, Field Biologist

Studied Desert Life During Field Research

After graduating from the University of New Mexico, Mares pursued his master's degree at Fort Hays State College in Hays, Kansas. There, he received thorough training in what he referred to as the "ologies" in A Desert Calling: Life in a Forbidding Landscape: mammalogy, herpetology, ornithology, ichthyology, plant and animal ecology, wildlife ecology, field biology, human ecology and conservation, the biology of the Southwest, and comparative physiology. He was then accepted to the Ph.D. program at the University of Texas at Austin, where he was sent into the deserts of South America to study mammals. Mares claimed mammalogist Oldfield Thomas as his hero; Thomas named nearly 3,000 species and subspecies of mammals during his lifetime.

At a Glance . . .

Born on March 11, 1945, in Albuquerque, NM; son of Ernesto Gustavo and Rebecca Gabriela Mares; married Lynn Ann Brusin, August 27, 1966; children: Gabriel Andres, Daniel Alejandro. Education: University of New Mexico, BS, 1967; Fort Hays Kansas State College (now University), MS, 1969; Univ of Texas at Austin, PhD, 1973.

Career: Universidad Nacional de Cordoba, Argentina, adjunct professor of zoology, 1971; Universidad Nacional de Tucumán, Instituto Miguel Lillo, Tucumán, Argentina, adj prof of zoology, 1972, visiting professor of ecology, 1974; Univ of Pittsburgh, assistant/associate prof of biological sciences, 1973-81; Univ of Arizona Tucson, visiting prof of ecology and evolutionary biology, 1980-81; Univ of Oklahoma, Department of Zoology, assoc prof of zoology, 1981-85, Stovall Museum, assoc curator of mammals, 1981-85, OK Museum of Natural History, director, 1983-03, curator of mammals, 1985–, Department of Zoology, prof of zoology 1985–, distinguished research professor, 2003–; Sam Noble OK Museum of Natural History, distinguished research curator, 2003–.

Selected memberships: American Association for the Advancement of Science; Amer Society of Mammalogists; Assn of Science Museum Directors; Ecological Soc of America; Sociedad de Biología de Chile; Southwestern Association of Naturalist.

Selected awards: Fulbright-Hays Research Fellow, 1976; National Chicano Don W. Tinkle Research Excellence Award, Southwestern Assn of Naturalists, 1989; C. Hart Merriam Award, Amer Soc of Mammalogists, 2000; OK Higher Education Hall of Fame, 2002; AAAS Fellow, Amer Assn for the Advancement of Science, 2002.

Addresses: Home—3930 Charing Cross Court, Norman, OK 73072. Office—Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK 73072.

Mares has devoted much of his career to studying desert mammals and how they have adapted to survive in what is commonly seen as a hot, dry wasteland. To the average observer, it might seem that Mares' job is a tedious and boring one. "The animals that I study are not as charismatic as the African lions …," Mares wrote in A Desert Calling. "I have focused instead on the uncharismatic, the rodents and other small mammals that pass remarkable lives mostly hidden from view.…" What keeps Mares intrigued, he continued, is that "Field biology involves daily encounters with the wondrous."

Field biologists, especially those who work in foreign countries, face disease, accidents, bureaucratic glitches before their work even starts, often for months or years at a stretch. While many scientists deplore fieldwork, because it often takes place under appalling and dangerous conditions, Mares thrives on it. "Mares has put himself into great discomfort and occasional danger in nearly every desert of the world, largely because he is consumed by a personal quest to understand …," colleague Stephen Jay Gould wrote in his foreword to A Desert Calling.

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