Ian McTaggart-Cowan

Ian McTaggart-Cowan Professorship in Biodiversity Conservation and Ecological Restoration

Ian and Joyce McTaggart-Cowan Scholarship

Dr. Ian and Joyce McTaggart-Cowan Scholarship in Environmental Studies

Born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1910, Ian McTaggart immigrated to Canada at the age of 3. In many of his interviews, Ian claims that his mother encouraged him to immerse himself in Natural History at a young age. Indeed, his interest in Natural History involved more than that of the average boy's bug collection: when he was 12, he had already documented all of the birds he had seen around North Vancouver.

Naturally, university was an inevitable stage of lan's evolution. During his early university years, Ian met Joyce. Joyce was born in Barnet B.C. in 1912 and was the daughter of Kenneth Racey, a leading member of the Vancouver Natural Historic Society who Ian met during his first year at UBC. Ian and Racey hit it off right away, developing a teacher-pupil relationship that eventually lead to their first co-creation, "The Mammals of the Alta Lake Region of Southwestern BC," in 1935.

Both Joyce and Ian shared a passion for all living things, especially birds. While Joyce kept diaries of the birds she saw on her various trips and at her home in Victoria, Ian busied himself with the construction of what many people agree is the "bird bible" of British Columbia. 171 Birds of British Columbia is the accumulation of Ian's talents and the work of four other authors, spanning four volumes.

But Ian's contributions to our understanding of wildlife span more than the pages of a bird bible or the chapters of his more than 250 published works. After graduating from UBC in 1932 with a degree in Vertebrate Zoology, Ian went on to do his doctorate at the University of Berkeley. At this time, Ecology was the next big thing. It was new, exciting and, of course, nobody knew anything about it. You could say that Ian was definitely in the right place at the right time: his fascination and knowledge of Environmental science earned him immediate respect and admiration from his peers - it also granted him immediate job offers. Soon after graduating from Berkeley in 1935, Ian  accepted a Biology job at the provincial museum in Victoria. In 1940, he moved on to become an assistant professor of Zoology at UBC, which led to a full-fledged professorship only five years later.

On top of being a professor at UBC, Ian became involved in promoting biological conservation through what was then the new information highway. In 1955, he started Fur and Feathers, a wildlife show aimed at children. "The great thing about this show," Ian claims, "is that it was completely unscripted! Yes, things could get rather hairy at times, especially when I had a bright young pupil asking me daunting questions aboutlife, like why a dove sings or why it is white.'' The success of Fur and Feathers was so great that soon after Ian went on to do the adult-oriented shows The Living Sea and Web of Life. The world-wide success of these shows earned Ian critical acclaim and paved the  way for The Nature of Things, whose host, David Suzuki, was a pupil Ian had picked to teach the newly emerging field of genetics.

His career at UBC evolved into his placement as Dean of Graduate Studies, where he supervised more than 100 graduate students. Later, he moved to Victoria and worked as a Biologist for the Provincial Museum, eventually finding his way to UVic, where he served as the university's chancellor from 1979 to 1984. There are countless awards, recognitions, societies, and tributes to Ian. He has received distinctions from theOfficer of Order of Canada and the Officer of the Order of British Columbia. He is the Honourary President of the Federation of BC Naturalists and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

"Above all, I feel that one of my greatest accomplishments was having a professorship named after me." The Dr. Ian McTaggart-Cowan Professorship in Biodiversity Conservation & Ecological Restoration is UVic's way of continuing Ian's passion. The aim of this professorship is to attract the brightest academic in the field of conservation biology and give him or her the support needed to continue addressing the problems andwonders that Ian faced. "The professorship is a real honour because to me it represents the natural evolution of Biology and conservation. It's a legacy that is continual and evolving."

Joyce and Ian spent more than 70 years together, raising two children, and leaving a legacy of three grandchildren and four great grandchildren. Joyce was completely involved with Ian's passion for wildlife. Together they traveled to six continents as naturalist hosts, where they educated other cultures on the beauty of wildlife and the importance of conservation.

For Ian and his late wife Joyce, there is no greater honour than helping those who are eager to follow in their footsteps. With the cost of university continually increasing, students face the daunting reality of moneyversus dreams. The Ian and Joyce McTaggart-Cowan Scholarships aim to take some of the strain off of the brilliant minds that will be the leaders in Biology. Ian believes that everything is subject to change, even our knowledge of the natural world. We cannot stop the evolution of knowledge, but we can guide those who are best suited to break through the frontiers of thought just as Ian and Joyce did throughout their lives. 

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