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A wildlife biologist and environmental contaminants expert with the Department of Interior for more than 30 years, USGS Western Ecological Research Center scientist and principal investigator Roger Hothem was given a fond farewell this January in Dixon, California.

“Roger was one of the earliest biologists to conduct field work on the impacts of environmental contaminants on wildlife,” says Steve Schwarzbach, WERC center director. “With Harry Ohlendorf, he worked on the selenium problems at Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge, which became an important national story that led to a national effort throughout the western U.S. to address selenium problems in irrigation drainage. It also led to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service establishing the Environmental Contaminants Division to address these risks.”

“Roger was dependable, conscientious, and gave a lot of attention to detail,” says Harry Olendorf of CH2M Hill, who began working with Hothem in 1984 while with USFWS. “We just worked well together… it was a joy working with him.”

Hothem’s research also focused on mercury contamination impacts on aquatic ecosystems and organisms, especially regarding contaminants from mining sources in northern California streams, as well as contaminants effects in various San Francisco Bay systems.

In recent decades, Hothem also conducted research on behalf of the National Park Service, conducting detailed, long-term surveys on Alcatraz Island on the breeding colonies of black-crowned night herons and other bird species.

Hothem began his scientific career at Ohio State University, earning a bachelor’s degree in zoology and his master’s in wildlife management. Early career stops include the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and a stop in Missoula, Montana, with the U.S. Forest Service.

In 1977, Hothem was hired as a research wildlife biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Davis, California -- a position he would hold for the ensuing decades, as local research offices transferred from the Fish and Wildlife Service to USGS and as labs moved from Davis to Dixon.

Hothem will continue to serve as a research wildlife biologist emeritus, completing projects and continuing to mentor WERC scientists at the Dixon Field Station.

-- Ben Young Landis

Collage of photos of Roger Hothem
Wildlife biologist and environmental contaminants expert, Dr. Roger Hothem. Image credit clockwise from top left: USGS; Darrin Bergen; Roger Hothem; Darrin Bergen.(Public domain.)