Jack Dumbacher stands against a sunlit cluster of trees near Caples Creek, wearing a striped button down shirt and a wide brimmed hat.

Since 2003, Jack Dumbacher has served as the Academy's curator of ornithology and mammalogy, using both fieldwork and collections to advance research on birds worldwide. Gayle Laird © California Academy of Sciences


SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (May 2, 2024) — The California Academy of Sciences is pleased to announce that Curator of Birds and Mammals Jack Dumbacher, PhD, has been appointed as one of five Patterson Scholars in Science and Sustainability. The honor recognizes Dumbacher’s many scientific contributions, including documenting and studying rare poisonous birds; multiyear research on biodiversity’s impact on Sierra forest wildfire resilience; and working with a team of scientists to rewild islands in the Galápagos.

Named in honor of the late William J. Patterson, chair of the Academy’s Board of Trustees from 2007 to 2010, Patterson Scholars are committed to exploring the natural world, advancing the regeneration of ecosystems and people’s connection to nature, and inspiring the next generation of scientists through visionary leadership and bold scientific investigations. Patterson Scholars hold endowed chairs at the Academy, with funds made possible by friends, family, and colleagues in memory of its namesake.

“It’s a real honor to be a Patterson Scholar at the Academy, and these endowments are so crucial for ensuring the continuity of collections care and research,” Dumbacher said. “It is especially reassuring to have this support for my ongoing research in the Galápagos, on forest resilience in California, and for developing rewilding and resilience practices to the many natural areas we work in.”

“Jack represents everything it means to be a Patterson Scholar. He pairs his scientific leadership in avian evolution and ecology with critical partnership-building to effectively make change on the ground,” said Academy Dean of Science Shannon Bennett, PhD. “Anyone who has taken his Master Birder Program or heard him speak publicly knows what an inspiring teacher he is! I look forward to Jack’s continued work to regenerate ecosystems in California, the Galápagos, and beyond.”

As curator of birds and mammals, Dumbacher has spent over two decades actively building and leveraging the Academy’s collections for research on the evolution, ecology, and distribution of animals around the world. Dumbacher’s research on the relationship between barred owls and spotted owls redefined forest conservation and species management practices in the Western United States. In collaboration with the U.S. Forest Service and Academy scientists Durrell Kapan and Peter Roopnarine, Dumbacher’s multi-year study of Sierra forest resilience revealed the importance of land management practices that promote biodiversity and regeneration. His notable discoveries include the first documentation and evolutionary study of poisonous birds from Papua New Guinea.

Most recently, Dumbacher has turned his focus to the eastern Pacific, leading a team of scientists from the Academy and the Galápagos in rewilding the Galápagos Islands. As the archipelago struggles to control the rising population of invasive species, Dumbacher’s team has worked to remove and mitigate the effects of invasives by harnessing collections and historic records to recreate past ecological communities. This work has been funded by the Global Environment Fund and Latin American Development Bank for four years, and involves partnerships with several local and international conservation organizations.

Dumbacher is also an extremely engaging teacher, science communicator, and trainer, successfully leading his renowned San Francisco Master Birder Program for students of all ages and backgrounds.


The Patterson Vision

Before his passing on September 24, 2010, Patterson spoke with Academy staff about his vision for an Academy that combines active science and education more effectively than any comparable institution in the world. The Patterson Scholars in Science and Sustainability help bring this vision to life. Patterson Scholars are scientist-educators of exceptional talent, achievement, and productivity who are committed to exploring the natural world, the challenge of sustainability, and science education through public engagement. Current Patterson Scholars include Curator of Invertebrate Zoology Rebecca Albright, Curator of Herpetology Rayna Bell, Dean of Science Shannon Bennett, and Curator of Entomology Brian Fisher.

About Research at the California Academy of Sciences

The Institute for Biodiversity Science and Sustainability at the California Academy of Sciences is at the forefront of efforts to understand two of the most important topics of our time: the nature and sustainability of life on Earth. Based in San Francisco, the Institute is home to more than 100 world-class scientists, state-of-the-art facilities, and nearly 46 million scientific specimens from around the world. The Institute also leverages the expertise and efforts of more than 100 international Associates and 450 distinguished Fellows. Through expeditions around the globe, investigations in the lab, and analyses of vast biological datasets, the Institute’s scientists work to understand the evolution and interconnectedness of organisms and ecosystems, the threats they face around the world, and the most effective strategies for sustaining them into the future. Through innovative partnerships and public engagement initiatives, they also guide critical sustainability and conservation decisions worldwide, inspire and mentor the next generation of scientists, and foster responsible stewardship of our planet.

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