Remembering Joe Burns

Lauren Bailey with Joe Burns at an SCB Chapter picnic in Washington, DC in 2013. Joe recruited Lauren to help re-establish the DC Chapter of SCB (SCBinDC). To continue Joe's legacy with the Society, members of the SCBinDC Chapter organized a fund for students in Joe's name that will support student memberships in SCB. 

Longtime SCB member Joseph (Joe) Burns, 58, passed away on Thursday 28 November in Washington, DC. 

Joe joined SCB shortly after its founding in the mid-1980s and remained a devoted and fully engaged member throughout his 33-year career as wildlife biologist, including 21 years at the U.S. Forest Service.  

He was an active member of the SCB Chapter in the Washington, DC region (SCBinDC) where he mentored younger conservation professionals and participated in career and policy-centered Chapter events. 

Joe was known for his commitment to wild life and wild places and as a champion for his professional societies like SCB and The Wildlife Society (TWS). He believed strongly in the technical expertise of SCB members and their ability to develop regional conservation strategies to enhance protection for biological diversity. 

"[Joe] often said that because he didn't have the benefit of an advanced degree, he really felt the need to fully engage with his professional society -- SCB -- to stay abreast of relevant research," said Lauren Bailey, a biologist with the Environmental Protection Agency who worked with Joe to re-establish the DC Chapter in 2013.

"Keeping active in SCB was how he maintained his professional credibility and scientific contacts in a field that so often dismisses people who don't have letters after their names," said Bailey. "Joe did great work and became the National Program Lead for the U.S. Forest Service's Threatened, Endangered & Sensitive Species Program, but I know that he felt staying active in SCB was one of his biggest achievements." 

David Johns, a professor of political science at Portland State University, was impressed by Joe's creativity and thoughtfulness on how to make the biggest difference for conservation by effectively engaging with federal agencies. 

"Joe will be much missed by me and the many others whom he touched" Johns said. "His generosity of spirit was an inspiration and made being with him always something to look forward to and to remember fondly. We could talk for hours about the violence done against the natural world and the difficulties of getting ahead of the curve. He was exceptional and there are too few like him in their warmth, passion and commitment." 

Joe was born in Belleville, Illinois and received his Bachelor's degree from Southern Illinois University. 

A celebration of Joe's life will be held in Washington, DC on Saturday 11 January 2020. A remembrance board is available for friends and colleagues to share stories about their time with Joe. In lieu of flowers, Joe's family requests that contributions be made in memory of Joe to The Wildlife Society.  

Joe introduced many young conservation professionals to SCB and the SCBinDC Chapter benefited greatly from his leadership. The Chapter would like to advance Joe's legacy by bringing more students into SCB so that they may advance their careers and connect with other experts to develop conservation strategies and partnerships that enhance protections for biodiversity.

To provide this opportunity to students, the SCBinDC Chapter worked with SCB to start a scholarship fund in Joe's name. Donations may be made to the Joe Burns Fund for Student Members of SCB. All proceeds will be awarded to students on a competitive basis to cover their membership in SCB.