Friends of Patuxent
Supporting Research, Wildlife Conservation, and Education at the Patuxent Research Refuge
Dr. Chandler S. Robbins Memorial Endowment
To Honor His Legacy and Love of Birds
Dr. Chandler S. Robbins (1918 -2017) was a world-famous ornithologist who was employed for most of his life at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. He first came to Patuxent in 1943 as a member of the Civilian Conservation Corps, and in 1945 was hired as a biologist at the Research Center. Even after his official retirement in 2005 at the age of 87, he continued to come into the office and work on projects until shortly before his death in 2017. Read more about Chan Robbins below.
Shortly after his passing, the Friends of Patuxent established the Dr. Chandler S. Robbins Memorial Endowment Fund, inspired by Chan’s lifelong love of birds and his dedication to the Patuxent Research Refuge. Endowment funds are used to further the appreciation of birds and their habitats everywhere through research, conservation, and education.
The first project with endowment funds has been completed. The Outdoor Education Pavilion near the National Wildlife Visitor Center was renovated and renamed the Dr. Chandler S. Robbins Outdoor Education Center. A loop nature trail, called the Wisdom Trail, was developed in conjunction with the Education Center. Three major outdoor educational displays are located along the Wisdom Trail. A dedication of the Education Center and Wisdom Trail was held on Saturday, October 14, 2023.
The Endowment Fund has received generous support from the Robbins family and other donors. The Friends invite additional donations to support future enhancements to the Wisdom Trail and the Outdoor Education Center, including accessibility upgrades for the trail and additional interpretive signage for the pavilion, as well as related projects in Chan’s memory. Donations can be made online; please select “Dr. Chandler S. Robbins Memorial Endowment” from the drop-down box. If you prefer to send a check, please mail to Friends of Patuxent, 10901 Scarlet Tanager Loop, Laurel, Maryland 20708-4011, and indicate the “Dr. Chandler S. Robbins Memorial Endowment” on your check. Friends of Patuxent is a Section 501(c)3 tax-exempt, non-profit organization and contributions are tax-deductible as allowed by law.
Additional funding for the Outdoor Education Center and Wisdom Trail was provided by the Refuge’s budget allocation as part of the National Wildlife Refuge System. The pavilion was extensively renovated for its new role as the Dr. Chandler S. Robbins Outdoor Education Center, thanks to volunteers from the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA). USA is a non-profit organization composed of AFL-CIO union members whose organizational mission is to educate future generations of sportsmen, conserve healthy wildlife habitat, and volunteer their time and skills for projects that improve access to outdoor recreation. The USA volunteers were a perfect fit to take on the work of renovating the Outdoor Education Center pavilion. Eight union volunteers from the Baltimore DC Metro Building Trades, International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) District Council 51, and the Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters overhauled the decking and railings on the pavilion, donating 264 hours of labor valued at nearly $14,000. Read more about USA’s volunteer work for the Chan Robbins Outdoor Education Center.
More about Chan Robbins
Chan was co-author, with his mentor Robert E. Stewart, of the seminal publication, Birds of Maryland and the District of Columbia (1958), which was based on data they collected over the previous 15 years. Chan was the lead author of the venerable Birds of North America - A Guide to Field Identification (aka the Golden Guide), published in 1966; the Golden Guide paved new ground with its use of range maps and sonograms of bird songs recorded by Chan himself. In his prolific research career, he authored approximately 160 scientific publications. He developed the protocols for the North American Breeding Bird Survey and the Breeding Bird Atlas, and was known for his landmark studies on the effects of forest fragmentation and pesticides on birds, and for his work on bird migration using bird banding. His research activities took him all over the world.
In addition to his research career, Chan was deeply involved in several ornithological organizations, including the Maryland Ornithological Society (MOS). He served as the third President of MOS, from 1952 to 1955, as well as in numerous other roles within the Society. Notably, Chan was the Editor of the MOS scientific journal Maryland Birdlife from 1947 to 2014 – a span of 67 years! During much of that time, he also wrote the quarterly “Seasons” reports on bird populations in Maryland, and authored many other articles that appeared within the pages of Birdlife. He was, simply put, the leading authority on the birds of Maryland. He was generous with his time, leading local bird walks and always willing to answer questions about birds. His kindness in sharing his knowledge inspired a generation of amateur and professional ornithologists who followed him.
Chan is best known to the general public as the person who banded Wisdom, the Laysan Albatross that nests on Midway Atoll, and that is widely considered to be the world’s oldest living wild bird. The name of the new Wisdom Trail at South Tract was inspired by the name of the albatross, and also recognizes the wisdom passed down to us from Chan’s long research career, in which he focused on the importance of preserving unfragmented habitat for breeding birds; avoiding pollution of our land and water with pesticides and other chemicals; preserving corridors for wildlife migration; and – importantly – getting outside to enjoy nature and learn from it.
Chan’s entire life and work are thoroughly documented in a memorial website assembled by the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and maintained by USGS. His son George Robbins has written an engaging four-part biography published in the four issues of the year 2018 of the journal New Hampshire Bird Records, available to download.
Dr. Chandler S. Robbins Memorial Endowment Fund Committee (Friends of Patuxent)
- Dr. Lowell Adams, biologist; Committee Chair
- Ken Cohen, past president, Prince George’s Audubon Society
- Stephanie Everett, Refuge volunteer
- Timothy Parker, Refuge staff and Project Facilitator
- Dr. Matthew Perry, Scientist Emeritus, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
- George Robbins (Chan’s son)
- Jane Robbins (Chan’s daughter)
- Jay Sheppard, retired U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist
- Dr. Marcia Watson, biologist; past president, Patuxent Bird Club
Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Volunteers (Renovation of Outdoor Education Center, Fall 2023)
- Sam Phipps – Union Sportsmen’s Alliance
- Patrick Wilby – Carpenters Local 177
- Lamar Mutts - Carpenters Local 177
- Ervin Jones - Carpenters Local 177
- Roxana Mejia – IUPAT DC 51
- Guillermo Martinez – IUPAT DC 51
- Adan Padilla - IUPAT DC 51
- Herbert Zaldivar - IUPAT DC 51
- Charles Parker - IUPAT DC 51