World-Renowned Ornithologist and Evolutionary Biologist Dies at 58

SAN FRANCISCO (June 13, 2000) – Luis Felipe Baptista died unexpectedly yesterday at his home in Sonoma County. He was 58. "All of us at the California Academy of Sciences are profoundly saddened and shocked by the loss of this dear friend and colleague," said Patrick Kociolek, Executive Director of the California Academy of Sciences. "Luis was a brilliant scientist who has made contributions that are fundamental to our understanding of bird communication and vocalization. He was a very kind and affable person who was loved and respected by all of the staff at the Academy."

Dr. Baptista is a well-known contributor to the field of bioacoustics, animal behavior, and avian systematics. He was born on August 9, 1941 in Hong Kong, a member of the Portuguese community in Macau. He emigrated to this country while in high school, received a B.S. and M.S. from the University of San Francisco and a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley. His contributions to the California Academy of Sciences began when he worked as a volunteer while still a student at the University of San Francisco. He was a post-doctoral Fellow of the Max Planck Institute for Behavioral Physiology, Germany, 1972 and 1973, and a member of the faculty of Occidental College in Los Angeles as associate professor and curator of the Moore Laboratory of Zoology, 1973-1980. In 1980, he joined the California Academy of Sciences as curator and chair of the Department of Ornithology and Mammalogy.

Dr. Baptista was a Fellow of the American Ornithologists' Union and of the California Academy of Sciences, a corresponding member of the Deutschen-Ornithologischen Gesellschaft and an Honorary Member of the Cooper Ornithological Society. He had served on the Board of Directors of the Cooper Ornithological Society, and was an American Representative to the International Ornithological Council. He helped organize international symposia on bird song at several International Ornithological Congresses: in Moscow (1982), in Canada (1986), in New Zealand (1991), and in Vienna (1994).

In addition to research on taxonomy and systematic relationships of birds, he was especially known for his research on song development and regional song dialects of birds, especially for his long-term studies of the White-crowned Sparrow. Dr. Baptista has authored and co-authored more than 127 publications in ornithology, including syntheses as well as reports of original and provocative research. He is also well known as joint author (with J. C. Welty) of a leading textbook of ornithology, as well as (with Sandra Gaunt) an important historical review of avian sound communication. He has maintained connections with the Portuguese community in Macau and has written on the birds of that region. Recently he became interested through this means on the creolization of human languages.

In the past ten years, Dr. Baptista participated in joint conservation program on the endangered avifauna of Isla Socorro, collaborating with Mexican biologists. Very recently he participated on a National Academy of Science's program in biomusic, extending his studies to draw important parallels between human music and bird song. His insights into the relation of classical music to birdsong received attention in the New York Times, Science News, Newsday, and in newspapers around the world. In the past week he chaired a symposium in Portugal on bioacoustics as a tool in conservation studies.

A memorial service for Dr. Baptista will be held on Saturday, June 24 from 9:30 - 11 am at the Star of the Sea Church (4420 Geary Blvd.).

"The contributions Luis has made to the scientific community and to the California Academy of Sciences will leave a lasting legacy," said Patrick Kociolek. "He will be missed."