In Memory of Carl Ernst

Carl Ernst 2.jpg

The wildlife world mourns the passing of Dr. Carl H. Ernst on Saturday, November 3, 2018 at the age of 80 years. Dr. Ernst served as a Research Associate in the Division of Amphibians and Reptiles, Department of Zoology, Smithsonian Institution from 1972 until his death. An accomplished researcher on snakes and turtles, he published over 240 scientific papers in peer-reviewed science journals and authored 11 books. Two of his books earned national honors. He was awarded the Outstanding Publication of the Year in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation by the Wildlife Society for two editions of “Turtles of the United States” in 1972 and 2011; equivalent to the Pulitzer Prize in this field, and a singular honor to be awarded twice. The 1992 book, “Venomous Reptiles of North America,” was named the Natural History Book of the Year by the American Library Association. Several of his other books were also nominated for national awards. During his research career, Dr. Ernst discovered and named five turtles and a parasitic worm new to science, and was recognized as an international expert on turtles. The Escambia Map Turtle, Graptemys ernsti, was described and named in his honor by one of his former graduate students.

Born in Lancaster, Dr. Ernst grew up in the Seventh Ward of Lancaster and graduated from J.P. McCaskey High School in 1956. He went on to earn the B.S. degree from Millersville University in 1960, the M.Ed. from West Chester University in 1963, and the Ph.D., in Vertebrae Zoology, from the University of Kentucky in 1969.

In addition to his wife, surviving Dr. Ernst are his daughters Lydia Ann, wife of Paul W. Dengel, Lynbrook, New York; and Carol Marie-Ernst, wife of Terry Creasap, Stafford, Virginia; and his grandchildren, Emma St Clair Robertson, Luke Henry Robertson, Harrison Wells Dengel, Hayden Augustus Dengel, Brennan Taylor Creasap, and Brayden Tyler Creasap.

Carl was a loving husband, devoted father, and proud grandfather. He lived his life by example, pursuing excellence in all things with determination and persistence. Gifted with a phenomenal memory; a remarkable taxonomic mind; and a unique ability to understand people, places, and events in the larger context of time and history; he valued each minute of his life and was a worthy steward of his time and talents. He will be greatly missed.

Carl and I had long-term occasional correspondence about various turtle topics, and despite now not living too far from him, I met Carl only once, a few years ago at the commemorative gathering for him in Baltimore. But that was later; to me first and foremost he was the lead author of the very first ‘major’ turtle book I ever laid my hands on (through inter-library loans, and then I photocopied the entire book) while still in high school, the magnificent Turtles of the United States (1972), which I read pretty well cover to cover and which was a major inspiration for me to try and compile something similar for the turtles of Asia.
— Dr. Peter Paul van Dijk