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Obituary: William Hamilton, UC Davis Ecologist and Blackbird Expert

By Kat Kerlin on May 2, 2006 in

UC Davis professor emeritus William John Hamilton III, an internationally recognized research scientist in ecology and animal behavior, died April 24, 2006. He was 74 years old.

A memorial is scheduled for May 27 at the home of family friends near Winters, Calif.

Hamilton was the leading authority on the California tri-colored blackbird, a threatened species, and spent the past several years studying the birds throughout the Central Valley for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Game.

"Bill delighted in the natural world with a love and sense of wonder that bordered on the ecstatic," said Hamilton's longtime friend, Winters farmer John Anderson.

Hamilton, who lived in rural Winters, joined the UC Davis faculty in 1963 and retired in 1994. He began studying animal ecology in Southern Africa in 1968, chiefly in Botswana and Namibia. Over the decades, he also had research projects in Egypt, the Caribbean, Central and South America, and Indonesia. He was the author of numerous books and articles. He taught field ecology courses long after his retirement, until 2005.

He was born Nov. 13, 1931, in Ithaca, N.Y. He was trained in natural history from a very young age and spent numerous days in the field with his father, Cornell University mammalogist William Hamilton Jr.

After graduating from Cornell in 1953, he served in the Korean War before going to UC Berkeley to study under renowned conservationist and wildlife biologist Starker Leopold.

He received his doctorate in zoology in 1960 and did post-doctoral studies of duck migration at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco before coming to UC Davis.

Hamilton is survived by Marion, his wife of 50 years; his daughter, Susan Hamilton; three grandchildren, Lily, Emma and William, all of Winters; and two sisters, Ruth Fisher of New York and June Hamilton of New Jersey. A son, John, died in 2000.

The memorial on Saturday, May 27, will begin at 10 a.m. at the home of John and Marsha Anderson, 21740 County Road 88 (north of Winters).

Hamilton's family asks that memorial contributions go to the Yolo Land Trust (P.O. Box 1196, Woodland, Calif. 95776), or to a UC Davis student-assistance fund established in his name (mail checks payable to UC Regents to: Bob Brewer, Environmental Science and Policy, UC Davis, Davis, Calif. 95616).

Media contact(s)

Kat Kerlin, Research news (emphasis on environmental sciences), 530-752-7704, 530-750-9195 (cell), kekerlin@ucdavis.edu

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