Henry Gholz died tragically in a mountain climbing accident September 30, 2017, in Rocky Mountain National Park.  Henry earned B.S. and Ph.D. degrees from Oregon State University, and was a faculty member specializing in forest ecosystems ecology in the School of Forest Resources and Conservation at the University of Florida from 1979 until 2000.  In 2000 he moved to NSF, where he championed ecological research across a variety of programs.   He was a pioneer both in his research and in his vision advancing ecological science.

Henry entered his career at a unique time in ecology when the theoretical basis of ecosystems was postulated, but how specific ecosystems function was not well known.  Much of his career foci were advancing this frontier in understanding how whole ecosystems work, what were the drivers of these ecosystem processes and how anthropogenic drivers, such as climate, land use–land cover change, management systems, and policy altered them.  His own work was concentrated on ecosystems in the pacific NW, northern Florida, and the tropics.  His work was frontier science.

Even when he was not directly in academia after moving to NSF, he continued to work at the frontier of ecological though—by managing NSF’s Long Term Ecological Research program (LTER), by developing new concepts within Macrosystems ecology, and by promoting how to scale ecological processes in time and space in ways that we previously had not been able to do.  Henry was also passionate about building the ecological community to advance these new ways of thinking and preparing us to understand the future and the unknown world to benefit both science and society.  He did this through education and training, developing new opportunities for young and early career scientists, and mentoring many at different places in their career path.  Through his own work, the work of his students and those that he mentored, and his position at the National Science Foundation, he played an important part in advancing ecological thought, and how we as scientists look at the world.

Henry was very well known, respected, and a widely trusted in the ecological community.  The community has voiced many thoughtful, kind words about Henry’s unique role within the scientific community.  Some examples:

  • Henry’s always had great positive energy, enthusiasm for science and life,
  • He had a talent to bring out the best in people with a unique sense of kindness and thoughtfulness that made a big difference to so many scientists
  • Henry made me re-think my proposal and made me feel really good that I did not get funded!

Henry has said that it was an honor working at NSF because the of the many ecological ideas that come past his desk; some bad, some good, others great, and watching some get seeded and mature into new ways of looking at the world.  He reflected that this was a rare perspective and for him to be part of that was humbling.  Henry always had time to discuss and help nurture and develop ideas, and his excitement, passion and generosity were always inspiring.

Those who knew him, know that he had a large passion and love for adventure, the outdoors, music, and his friends and family.  Taken together with how he viewed science, he had a unique sense of reverence and wonder of the world and the mysteries it holds.  This humbled him.  This was at his core, and this motivated what he did, and was a source of compassion to those that he interacted with.  Being around Henry was always a bright spot in anyone’s day!  To those who knew him, he will be sorely missed, to those that did not know him, we hope you get a chance to learn from him though his work and friends.

You are and will be missed by many.

Hank Loescher, Greg Starr, Mike Binford and Mike Ryan

2 Responses to “Tribute to Henry Gholz from Friends and Students”

  1. Kenneth Davis

    I got to know Henry via meetings at NSF. It was always a pleasure to talk with him, and he always had a positive, encouraging and expansive view of the world – whether it was the world of research or where to find a good running trail or bike route. We should all aspire to be visionary and joyous leaders and scientists, like Henry was. I will miss him.

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