Behnke, Robert H. 1929-
BEHNKE, Robert H. 1929-
PERSONAL: Born December 30, 1929, in Stamford, CT; married 1963. Education: University of Connecticut, B.A. (zoology), 1957; University of California, Berkeley, M.A. 1960, Ph.D., 1964.
CAREER: American Academy of Science, exchange scholar to USSR, 1964-65; University of California, Berkeley, assistant professor, 1966; Colorado State University, professor of fisheries, 1966—. Consultant to editors of National Geographic for articles pertaining to fish.
MEMBER: American Fisheries Society, American Society of Ichthyology and Herpetology Research.
(With D. E. Benson) Endangered and Threatened Fishes of the Upper River Basin, Colorado State University, Cooperative Extension Service (Fort Collins, CO), 1980.
Native Trout of Western North America, American Fisheries Society (Bethesda, MD), 1992.
Also writes a column for Trout magazine and articles for various scientific publications.
SIDELIGHTS: Robert J. Behnke has been studying and teaching the genetics and biology of endangered, threatened, and rare fish for almost fifty years. He is a professor at Colorado State University where he teaches courses such as advanced ichthyology, conservation biology, and fishery seminars. In recent years, he has attempted to reach an audience outside of academia by writing a quarterly column for the popular fishing magazine Trout, by advising editors at National Geographic on their articles pertaining to fish, and presenting his views in several scientific publications on the evolution of specific species of fish. He has also written three reference books on fish that reviewers have cited among the most intensive studies on the subject. In his books Behnke writes authoritatively about his topic, and, as a Publishers Weekly reviewer observed, he "also ponders some of the more philosophical aspects of ecology and human responsibility for the environments that these fish live in. His books are filled with scholarly information, but his interest in the field is also demonstrated by many of the interesting anecdotes that he offers about the life and fate of the trout and salmon."
In 1992 Behnke published his Native Trout of Western North America, the result of forty years of research and practical experience with this group of fishes. In the book, Behnke discusses the evolution, taxonomy, behaviors, and current distribution of cutthroat, rainbow, Gila, and other indigenous trout found in the West. He also offers a philosophy of conservation that he believes will sustain the habitat and health of these fish. The book is illustrated with black-and-white drawings as well as color plates of the various species of fish the book focuses on. Behnke wrote the book with the hope that it will assist fisheries managers, students of salmonid evolution, taxonomists, and people interested in fishing who would like to learn more about the trout that they catch. One of the major points Behnke makes in this study is that wild stocks of trout should be left unhampered. In other words, habitats should not be altered, fish should not be introduced into waters that are not their natural environment, and native species should not be mixed with hatchery stockfish, a practice that results in hybridization. The Alvord cutthroat trout once found in native rivers along the Oregon-Nevada border, for instance, has become extinct because they were crossbred with rainbow trout local farmers introduced into the Alvord's natural environment. Behnke would like to avoid a similar disaster in the future.
Ten years after the publication of Native Trout of Western North America, Behnke wrote Trout and Salmon of North America, which a reviewer from Forbes found to be not only a stimulating read but also so well illustrated that the book could well be considered a work of art. Behnke, with his extensive knowledge of the topic, and illustrator Joseph R. Tomelleri, who reportedly spent anywhere from thirtyfive to fifty hours on each portrait, have collaborated to create an extensive study of the more than seventy different types of trout and salmon that exist in North America. Tomelleri's illustrations, which many reviewers have claimed are some of the most beautiful ever made of fish, "are accurate down to the last fin ray and parr mark," according to the Forbes reviewer; and Behnke's "colorful details and anecdotes" prove to be not only educational for any professional ichthyologists or any of the thirty-five million amateur anglers in North America, but also alluring enough to "captivate casual readers."
Behnke's Trout and Salmon of North America includes detailed maps that demonstrate both the native freshwater locations and the bodies of water into which the fish have been introduced throughout North America. Noting that trout and salmon are among some of the most prized game fish, Booklist's Mary J. Nickum referred to Behnke's study as "an excellent field guide and reference for serious anglers and naturalists."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Forbes, September 16, 2002, review of Trout and Salmon of North America, p. 120.
Library Journal, September 1, 2002, Mary J. Nickum, review of Trout and Salmon of North American, p. 202.
Publishers Weekly, July 29, 2002, review of Trout and Salmon of North America, pp. 61-62.*