By Kara Morrison
Henry Chandler Cowles passed away on this date in 1939 at 70 years of age. Cowles was an American botanist and early ecologist who was fundamental in founding the Ecological Society of America and his work helped lead to the creation of Indiana Dunes National Park. Cowles’ research emphasized and investigated the inherently changing nature of plants and their natural environment. More importantly, unlike many botanists and ecologists at the time, he was less focused on his own research and more focused on the work of his students. Cowles often took his University of Chicago students to areas around the Great Lakes and even as far as the West Coast.
Although he traveled far and wide to study ecology, his greatest influence was his own local area. He first visited the Indiana Dunes in 1896, and continued to travel to observe the dunes throughout various seasons over the years, eventually developing concepts around plant succession and climax formation that would become crucial to ecological studies. Cowles Bog, a part of what is now Indiana Dunes National Park, is named in honor of Cowles and his work that brought such widespread attention to the Indiana Dunes.
Kara Morrison is a recent graduate of Kenyon College and a contributor to the Turnstone Strategies blog. She is passionate about making historical and educational information accessible to the public.
Sources cited: National Geographic Resource Library, University of Chicago Centennial Catalogues
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