Archie Carr

Biologist, conservationist, and “father of turtle research”
Born: June 16, 1909
Birthplace: Mobile, Alabama

Considered the world's leading authority on sea turtles, Archie Carr was also well known for his eloquent books on nature and for his influential work in conservation > the protection and preservation of the natural world.

Carr received his Ph.D. in zoology from the University of Florida in 1937, where he taught for most of his life. That year he married his wife, Marjorie Harris, who became a well-known biologist and Florida environmentalist. They had five children. From 1945 to 1949, he taught biology in Honduras, which enabled him to conduct extensive research on Central American wildlife. In 1953, he wrote an acclaimed book about the experience, High Jungles and Low.

It was in Central America in 1947 that he first encountered sea turtles, many species of which are endangered. Sea turtles became Carr's life's study. His work in tagging, tracking, and counting the green turtle helped save the species from extinction. His research led him around the world, to South America, the Caribbean, East Africa, Papua New Guinea, and Australia, among other places. In 1955 he began a turtle research station in Tortuguero, Costa Rica, which eventually became Tortuguero National Park, a world-famous protected habitat for sea turtles. His 1956 book about sea turtles at Tortuguero, The Windward Road, inspired the founding of the Caribbean Conservation Corporation, whose mission has been to study and protect sea turtles. In the 1960s he launched “Operation Green Turtle” with the assistance of the U.S. Navy. The project distributed green turtle eggs and hatchlings to various nesting beaches around the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico in an effort to encourage the growth of their dwindling populations. His conservation efforts also led him to lead campaigns against ocean pollution. In 1991, several years after his death, the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge was opened. This twenty-mile section of coastline in central Florida protects important nesting sites for endangered sea turtles.

Archie Carr was not only the “father of turtle research,” but he also inspired others to launch their own conservation efforts. He influenced government officials, students, and ordinary people through his example, and he influenced the public through his extraordinary books. He published more than 120 scientific papers as well as ten books for the general reader that won numerous awards for their eloquent portrayal of nature.

Died: May 21, 1987