The Many Facets of Edwin R. Kalmbach
Research Center's First Director
Artist, illustrator, writer, and self-educated biologist, Edwin Richard Kalmbach rose through government service ranks to become the first director of the Denver Wildlife Research Center.
Kalmbach's areas of study included ornithology, mammalogy, entomology, botany, and ecology. In his day, he was known to the agricultural community and wildlife professionals for his work in economic mammalogy and ornithology. Kalmbachs broad interests are evident in a sampling of his many publications: The Crow in Relation to Agriculture (1920, revised, 1939); The Magpie in Relation to Agriculture (1927); The European Starling in the United States (1928, revise, 1931); and The Armadillo: Its Relation to Agriculture and Game (1943).
Edwin Kalmbach was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan on April 29, 1884, the son of Godfrey Kalmbach, a shoe merchant, and Anna Steinecke Kalmbach. After graduating from Grand Rapids High School, he began working for the Kent Scientific Museum in 1903. Kalmbach married Kathryn Arvilla Kalmbach in1908 and they had three children.
Kalmbach joined the United States Bureau of Biological Survey in Washington, D.C. in 1910 as an assistant biologist. He advanced to biologist in 1924, senior biologist in 1928, and became head of the newly formed Food Habits Laboratory in Denver in 1931. When the Denver Wildlife Research Laboratory of the Fish and Wildlife Service was created in 1940 by combining the Food Habits Laboratory and the Denver Control Methods Research Laboratory, Kalmbach became its first director. He retired from government service in 1954.
As a biologist, Kalmbach helped guide the governments policies and practices toward conservation and wildlife resource management. During the 1930s Kalmbach played an important role in encouraging and establishing the Department of Interiors series of duck stamps. During the dust bowl conditions of the dirty thirties many wetlands, necessary for migratory waterfowl, dried up and blew away, causing a decline in birds and bird hunting. In 1934 Congress passed the Duck Stamp Act that required waterfowl hunters to purchase stamps. The money generated from the sale of stamps, in turn, provided revenue to acquire important wetlands. Kalmbach, himself, designed the ruddy duck stamp issued in 1941-1942. In addition, he supported the United States Post Office policy of issuing commemorative stamps to depict various kinds of wildlife.
Also a wildlife artist, Kalmbach painted and drew extensively. He provided artwork for Bureau of Biological Survey publications and illustrated two books: Knowing Birds Through Stories, by Floyd Bralliar (1922) and Alaska Bird Trails, by Herbert Brandt (1943).
Throughout his lifetime, Kalmbach received many honors. In 1955 the University of Colorado awarded him an honorary doctorate and that same year he received the Distinguished Service Award from the Department of the Interior. The Wildlife Society in 1958 awarded Kalmbach the Aldo Leopold Award for service in wildlife conservation. Also in 1958, he received the Founders Day Award from the Izzak Walton League of America. Kalmbach died on August 26, 1972.
Starting as he did at the bottom of the ladder in government service, without benefit of formal training in biology, he advanced in his profession on a do-it-yourself basis until, at the time of his recent retirement, he had reached a position of prominence among the best wildlife investigators of this continent.