Since I consider myself a somewhat "middle to upper-middle of the road" expert on travel to Baja and information about the peninsula, I was somewhat surprised when I read the San Diego Union Tribune's obituary today (something I never do) and saw the story on this Baja expert. Sounds like one of the great Baja explorers and I wonder if any of you out there have heard of him? I hadn't.
Here's the article:
Dr. Reid Venable Moran (1916 - 2010)
Reid Moran, an explorer and scientist, spent many years traveling by mule, truck and boat to remote locations throughout Baja California in search of plant specimens. His expeditions yielded hundreds of plants from islands off Baja including Guadalupe Island, a volcanic island 250 miles south of San Diego.
His peers considered him a legend in botanical exploration. As the longtime curator of botany at the San Diego Natural History Museum, he played a key role in the museum’s growth.
Dr. Moran died of pneumonia Jan. 21 in Clearlake, where he had lived for several years. He was 93.
Anthropologist and author Jane Goodall wrote about Dr. Moran’s dedication to preserving the diversity of flora around the world. She called him “a sort of living myth in botanical exploration” and noted that he spent 48 years “studying the sequence of the destruction of (Guadalupe Island’s) flora, and the richness that yet remained.”
He described it as the most beautiful island he had known.
Dr. Moran kept extensive field notebooks documenting his travels and his botanical collections, said Judy Gibson, botany department collections manager for the Natural History Museum. He also gained a devoted following among museum members as a leader of field trips throughout Baja California.
During his 25-year tenure with the museum, Dr. Moran was instrumental in more than doubling the museum’s botanical collection from 44,000 specimens to 108,000 specimens.
In 1965, the Smithsonian Institution selected an exhibit he designed for a three-year national tour of other museums and universities. The exhibit featured a family of succulents known as Stonecrops. He had collected the succulents in California, Mexico, the Mediterranean and eastern Asia.
“He was among the very few people who really explored Baja California (in the 1950s and ’60s) when you had to travel (solely) by mule,” said Tom Oberbauer, a botanist with the San Diego County Department of Planning and Land Use. “He found hundreds of new species and described them. He was very detail-oriented and made meticulous notes. He was passionate about all of Baja California, but Guadalupe Island was his focal point.”
Colleagues said Dr. Moran’s strength and stamina allowed him to work in isolated areas, hiking up mountains and collecting specimens for weeks at a time.
“He was hiking through steep canyons and rough terrain when he was in his 70s,” Oberbauer said.
He didn’t mind spending a lot of time alone with his work, but he also seemed to appreciate being around people and could be the life of the party, Oberbauer said. “He had a dry sense of humor, and he liked to play the guitar and sing songs.”
Dr. Moran was a longtime member of the San Diego Folk Song Society and had an interest in Australian and English folk songs.
In addition to writing about his findings, Dr. Moran became adept at photographing his collections, and many of his photos have been part of his exhibits.
Reid Venable Moran was born June 30, 1916, in Los Angeles to Edna Louise Venable and Robert Breck Moran. He grew up in Pasadena, and his interest in botany started in childhood.
He earned a degree in biology from Stanford University in 1939, a master’s degree in botany from Cornell University in 1942 and a doctorate from the University of California Berkeley in 1951.
He served in the Army Air Forces from 1942 to 1946 as a flight navigator. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross after his aircraft was shot down over Yugoslavia during World War II. He and the rest of the crew completed their bombing mission before being ordered to bail out of their damaged B-24. They parachuted into German-controlled territory but were able to escape unharmed.
He married the former Ellen Boersma in the 1980s. The couple divorced a few years later.
Dr. Moran is survived by a daughter, Jenna of Washington, D.C.; a stepson, Matthew Boersma of Santa Rosa; a sister, Katharine “Kaki” Cashman of Reno; and several nieces and nephews.
No services are scheduled. Dr. Moran’s remains were to be cremated and scattered off Baja California.