MARJORIE HARRIS CARR Biography - Famous Scientists


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Marjorie Harris Carr's interest in the world around her began in the early 1920's           
during a childhood spent in a beautiful, remote part of Southwest Florida called           
Bonita Springs in Lee County. It was nurtured by parents who were both                     
naturalists and who, as Marjorie states, "knew the answers to the questions I               
had about the natural world." Early in her childhood she also saw the                       
devastation thoughtless people could wreak upon their surroundings. When she was           
a child, a person could paddle a canoe down the Imperial River from Bonita to               
the Gulf and not see a living thing, not an alligator, not a red bird, not a               
heron...nothing. Everything had been shot by people who thought it was fun to               
kill anything that moved along the riverbank. From childhood, Marjorie                     
recognized both the beauty and the fragility of Florida's environment.                     
YOUNG WOMANHOOD                                                                             
Marjorie received a BS in Zoology at Florida State College for Women (FSCW, now             
Florida State University) in 1936. She was heavily influenced by professors who             
were early ecologists--who studied the relationship of flora, fauna and terrain             
in an environment. In 1990, Marjorie wrote in the Foreword to Ecosystems of                 
Florida, which was edited by Ronald L. Myers and John J. Ewel:                             
Absorbing all this information (from Botany professors Herbert Stoddard and                 
Herman Kurz) was enormously satisfying. What a pleasure it was to go into the               
woods and fields and, by recognizing a set of characteristic key plants, be able           
to put a name to a particular association of plants. It was thrilling to look at           
a landscape and think perhaps you knew its past history and its future. The                 
ability to "read" a landscape provides the kind of pleasure that comes from a               
knowledge of Bach or Shakespeare or Van Gogh. It is a pleasure that increases               
with your knowledge and understanding of the ecology of Florida, and it lasts an           
entire lifetime (xiii).                                                                     
While in college (summers 1934 and 1935), she designed and taught a field course           
in natural history for young people throughout Lee County. This project was part           
of the National Youth Administration, a New Deal organization.                             
The summer after graduating from FSCW she got a job as a wildlife technician               
with a fish hatchery that was a part of the Resettlement Administration, another           
New Deal organization. The facility was located at Welaka. A couple of "firsts"             
happened for her here: she was the first female wildlife technician employed by             
the U.S. government, and it was her first encounter with the Ocklawaha River.               
In 1937 she met and married naturalist and author, Archie Carr. During their               
fifty years marriage, they made a home for their family on a pond in the woods             
near Micanopy, raised five children and continued their work in conservation. In           
1942 Marjorie received a Masters of Science in Zoology from the University of               
Florida. Her thesis, which was later published, dealt with the breeding habits,             
embryology and larval development of the large-mouthed black bass of Florida.               
EARLY ENVIRONMENTAL WORK                                                                   
Marjorie's work on behalf of the environment started in Gainesville in the early           
1960's during the time she was a member of the Alachua Audubon Society and the             
Garden Club. Both organizations contained an extremely vigorous membership which           
took leadership positions on local environmental matters. Marjorie's                       
organizational and inspirational abilities were honed during this time.                     
Marjorie and other members of the Garden Club of Gainesville initiated the Payne's         
Prairie Wildlife Refuge. In the early 1960's, the refuge was only as wide as the           
right-of-way for US Highway 441. The group landscaped the entrance to the                   
Prairie, planted cabbage palms along the road's route and created viewing areas.           
This small beginning started the work which has now culminated in the Payne's               
Prairie State Preserve. She also worked to save and restore Lake Alice on the               
campus of the University of Florida.                                                       
Marjorie started the Junior Naturalists of Alachua Audubon, a program which for             
several years was very active in Alachua County schools. She was also                       
instrumental in initiating a nature-photography competition dealing with Florida           
landscapes. Elliot Porter and other prominent photographers from around the                 
nation served as judges. This competition selected photographs on the basis of             
their success in picturing the intangible aspects of Florida's environment. It             
was the first such photography competition ever held in the United States.                 
THE CROSS FLORIDA BARGE CANAL                                                               
In 1962, the Alachua Audubon Society of Gainesville invited two representatives             
of state and federal agencies to give a talk on the probable effects of the                 
Cross Florida Barge Canal on Florida's environment. The talk was well presented             
and well illustrated with slides and charts. It was well-rehearsed. But, as                 
Marjorie recalls, a "blizzard" of questions followed the presentation--questions           
about the economics of the project, the effects construction would have on the             
geology, hydrology and ecology of the canal project area. These were questions             
for which the government speakers had no satisfactory answers.                             
As Marjorie recalled in a speech she gave at the 12th Biennial Sierra Club                 
Wilderness Conference in Washington, DC, in 1971: "The audience that had come to           
the meeting with a completely neutral attitude toward the canal project went               
away that evening disturbed, uneasy, and determined to find out more about the             
probable effects of the barge canal on the Florida environment."                           
This was the beginning of the major portion of Marjorie Harris Carr's                       
environmental work. She was the prime mobilizer and motivator in the struggle to           
stop construction of the Cross Florida Barge Canal. Today, in her 80's and in               
poor health, she continues as a motivator to the Floridians who go on with the             
work of restoring 16 miles of the Ocklawaha River which was dammed and flooded             
during the early construction stages of the barge canal.                                   
In 1969, members of the Audubon Society and others created Florida Defenders of             
the Environment (FDE). This group of hydrologists, geologists, economists,                 
zoologists and other concerned citizens wrote a carefully researched, scientific           
report called the Environmental Impact of the Cross Florida Barge Canal With               
Special Emphasis on the Ocklawaha River System. Marjorie, in partnership with               
Bill Partington, organized and directed this group of professionals to prepare             
this report which provided the fundamental information necessary to assess the             
impact of the barge canal on the river valley. This impact statement, one of the           
first such reports written by any citizen's group in the nation was, along with             
the work being done by Art Marshall in the Everglades, a motivating factor in               
the creation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in the early 1970's.           
In 1970, FDE entered into a suit with the Environmental Defense Fund to stop the           
construction of the Cross Florida Barge Canal. A Federal judge issued an                   
injunction stopping construction in January of 1971 and three days later                   
President Nixon halted construction citing potential serious environmental                 
Throughout this and all subsequent battles, Marjorie has clung to the principle             
of making environmental decisions based on sound scientific and technical                   
information. During her 30 year presidency of FDE, Marjorie has followed the               
precepts of sticking only to the facts and of not engaging in emotional attacks             
in the complex, delicate and long-term work of environmental protection.                   
In 1976, Marjorie and others spoke before the Governor and Cabinet. After two               
days of testimony, Governor Askew and the Cabinet voted to ask Congress to de-authorize     
the barge canal and restore the Ocklawaha. The work to de-authorize the canal               
was continued by FDE until 1990 when the barge canal was finally de-authorized.             
Today, Marjorie and FDE continue to work to restore the Ocklawaha River and its             
riverine forest.                                                                           
FLORIDA DEFENDERS OF THE ENVIRONMENT                                                       
As president of Florida Defenders of the Environment, Marjorie has inspired,               
organized and raised the money for many diverse projects. Among these are the               
creation of the Environmental Service Center (ESC) in Tallahassee, dedicated to             
identifying the most pressing environmental issues facing Florida and utilizing             
FDE's pool of talented specialists to "get the facts" on these issues. The ESC             
existed from 1980 until 1988. In 1984 FDE/ESC sponsored "Florida: Paradise                 
Regained, It Can Be Done," a large, three day conference addressing growth                 
Other reports and conferences produced during Marjorie's time as FDE's president           
are: Proceedings of the FDE Conference on the Apalachicola River Drainage System,           
(in cooperation with Florida's Department of Natural Resources); a series of 7             
bulletins on Rare and Endangered Biota of Florida (in conjunction with Florida             
Audubon); a forum on Florida's transportation which resulted in the report,                 
Transportation and Florida's Future; and an American Assembly Conference on                 
phosphate mining in Florida, which resulted in the publication of A Source Book             
on Phosphate Mining in Florida.                                                             
FDE/ESC also designed and sponsored the Fish and Wildlife Non-Game program, the             
second largest non-game trust in the nation. Other conferences were held on the             
consequence of population growth in Florida (1973), Gulf Coast salt marshes (1978),         
the Withlacoochee River (1979), fresh water supply problems (1980), Florida                 
panther survival (1986), and a workshop for Florida's independent environmental             
groups (1987).                                                                             
In the 1990's, Marjorie, along with John H. Kaufmann, Ph.D., wrote the report,             
Restoring the Ocklawaha River Ecosystem, which outlines the problems and                   
solutions to restoring the river. Marjorie and John Kaufmann also produced a               
script for a video on restoring the river. Efforts to restore the Ocklawaha                 
River continue, and Marjorie remains an inspiration and motivator to those                 
working to ensure the river again flows freely.                                             
Broadly speaking, Marjorie Harris Carr's major contribution to Florida has been,           
through her diligent work, her integrity and her indomitable spirit, to help               
raise the level of environmental consciousness among Florida's citizens. She is             
certainly not alone in this endeavor, but her particular contribution has been             
incalculable. When asked how she has been able to stick to her work for so long,           
Marjorie's answer is simple: "I am an optimist," she says, "I also believe that             
Floridians care about their environment. If they are educated about its perils,             
if they are never lied to, they will become stewards of the wild places that are