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(September 21, 2000, Gazette)

Bird man of Newfoundland remembered


Dr. Leslie M. Tuck

By Kelley Power
A former J. L. Paton Research Professor from Memorial’s Psychology Department was honoured recently in a dedication ceremony at Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve.

On Aug. 17, Dr. Leslie M. Tuck was recognized for his ornithological work in Newfoundland when the Interpretive Centre at Cape St. Mary’s was renamed the Dr. Leslie M. Tuck Centre.

According to Dr. Bill Montevecchi of the Psychology Department, Dr. Tuck was instrumental in setting up seabird ecological reserves in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“He had a real attachment to Cape St. Mary’s and as a consequence of that ... the dedication was appropriate and this is certainly a most appropriate person to dedicate it to because of his history.”

While Dr. Tuck conducted studies of wolves, polar bears, seals and narwhales, it was for his bird research – seabirds in particular – that he was best known. His work brought him all across Newfoundland – repeatedly to Funk Island – as well as to the Canadian Arctic, and the warmer climates of Louisiana, Bermuda, Guyana, Trinidad and Venezuela.
Having first attended Memorial University College, Dr. Tuck went on to study biology at Harvard University from 1936-1938. He subsequently worked for seven years as a photographer on the U.S. Navy base in Argentia and in 1949 became the first dominion wildlife officer in Newfoundland after the province joined Confederation; this was the start of a 27 year career in the Canadian Wildlife Service.

He founded the Newfoundland Natural History Society and was active in raising public awareness of oil pollution and its relationship to seabird mortality. By the time he retired in 1976, Dr. Tuck had been awarded two honorary degrees, the first a doctorate of science from Memorial and the second a D.Sc. from Acadia University.

Though experiencing health problems, Dr. Tuck accepted the position of J. L. Paton Research Professor in 1977. At Memorial, he continued his research into the avifauna of Newfoundland until his death in 1979.

Two landmark books written by Dr. Tuck, The Murres and The Snipes, both received the Wildlife Society’s Outstanding Publication of the Year Award, making him the only two-time recipient. In addition to these and several other publications, he co-authored Newfoundland Birds with Dr. Montevecchi.

As a friend and colleague of the late Dr. Tuck, Dr. Montevecchi was involved in the August 17th dedication ceremony at Cape St. Mary’s.

“To really get to it, the real tribute always – to anybody – is not the building, but the place,” said Dr. Montevecchi. “Here, it’s the bird colony, it’s Cape St. Mary’s.”

As such, it is the location of the centre – within the ecological reserve that he helped create – that is the true memorial to Dr. Tuck’s life and work.

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