If there’s anything to preserve in the United States, the national parks are near the top of the list. The landscape of the United States, with its astonishing vistas, extensive waterways, and vastly different biomes, there are near-endless explorations to be had. Most of us know the John Muir, but not as many have heard of George Meléndez Wright. Wright was an American-Salvadoran biologist who conceived and conducted the first scientific survey of fauna for the National Park Service. Here’s more from the George Wright Society:
George Meléndez Wright was born into two dynamic families in 1904: the Wrights and the Meléndezes. His father, John Tennant Wright, came from a long line of successful San Francisco-based steamship owners and captains. His mother, Mercedes Meléndez, was born in San Salvador, El Salvador, the second of ten siblings. The Meléndez family was among the most powerful, and largest, families in the country. Both his parents died when George was a young boy, and although he kept in touch with his Salvadoran relatives, he was raised by his step-Grandmother, Cordelia Wright, whom he referred to as “Auntie.” As a child, encouraged by Auntie, he roamed the San Francisco Bay area and came to love and to know its plants and wildlife, particularly the birds. At the age of 16, Wright entered the University of California, Berkeley, as a Forestry student, studying under Professor Walter Mulford. However, he was soon taking classes at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology taught by the renowned field zoologist Professor Joseph Grinnell, and his assistant Joseph Dixon, the museum’s Economic Mammologist.
After graduating in 1927, Wright joined the National Park Service, and until June of 1929, he worked as an Assistant Naturalist in Yosemite National Park. During this period—and based on several summers exploring the parks of the West, including an expedition to Mount McKinley (now Denali) National Park in 1926—Wright became very concerned about what he would come to call “the problems caused by conflict between man and animal through joint occupancy of the park areas.” Specifically, the transplanted and unnaturally penned tule elk in Yosemite Valley were disturbing to Wright, as was the elk and buffalo situation in Yellowstone National Park.
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