Naturalists – George “Doc” Ruhle, 1940 – 1953

George “Doc” Ruhle

“George C. “Doc” Ruhle (1900-1994), Crater Lake’s chief naturalist between 1940 and 1953, inherited an active and resourceful interpretive program when he came on the scene. Until the demands of war brought a halt to “nonessential activities” in the fall of 1942, Ruhle managed to maintain the educational program’s momentum. In 1941, he convened an advisory committee, chaired by R. W. Leighton of the University of Oregon and including Ruhle, Luther Cressman, Howel Williams, and others to support scientific and educational work at the park. And in the summer of 1942, just before the interpretive branch shut down altogether, he oversaw one term of a new training school for park interpreters.

In 1946, when Crater Lake reopened year-round and Doc Ruhle returned from a four-year stint in the navy, eight seasonal naturalists were hired to work under his direction. While these new members of the interpretive staff were schooled, along with the park’s rangers, in a revived postwar ranger training program, the bulk of their education in interpretive work came from practical contact with Ruhle and other naturalist colleagues.

Ruhle revived contacts between Crater Lake National Park and the University of Oregon during the postwar period, taking advantage of John Merriam’s links with both institutions and drawing on the interest generated by the prewar advisory committee chaired by the university’s R. W. Leighton. The Crater Lake Field School of Nature Appreciation, modeled after a similar program at Yosemite National Park and offered by the University of Oregon for the first time during the summer of 1947, presented an innovative five-week course featuring the cross-disciplinary approach championed by Merriam. One of the course instructors, Ruth Hopson Keen, became the first woman naturalist at Crater Lake a short time later.

Ruhle, who held a Ph.D. in chemistry (hence the nickname “Doc”), was entirely comfortable working with men and women with advanced degrees or specialized training in the sciences. In fact, he went out of his way to hire such people as seasonal naturalists at Crater Lake. Before 1957, the year when alarm over the Russian Sputnik satellite helped generate new sources of funding for individual scientific research in the United States, highly qualified scientists often looked for science-related employment in national parks during the summertime academic off-season. Biologist James Kezer, who worked as a naturalist with Ruhle during the summers of 1951 and 1952, recalled that half or more of the seasonal staff from those years held Ph.D.s. Even more impressive, according to Kezer, was Ruhle’s rare ability to recognize the limits of his own knowledge and to prosper from the expertise of those who worked under his direction.” [Crater Lake National Park: A History, p. 160-161]

 

Related Links

Bibliography (Partial)

  • The Noble Blackfeet, 1934.
  • Hawaii National Park: a guide for the Haleakala Section, Island of Maui, Hawaii by George C. Ruhle; illustrated by Donald M. Black. Published: Hawaii Natural History Association, copyright 1959.
  • Guide to Glacier National Park, 1963.
  • Advisory report on a national park system for Thailand, 1959-1960: a report prepared for the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources and the American Committee for International Wild Life Protection. Publisher: American Committee for International Wild Life Protection, 1964.
  • Along Crater Lake Roads: A Road Guide to Crater Lake National Park; revised 1964 cover
  • Advisory report on national parks and reserves for Taiwan, 1965: a report prepared for the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources and the American Committee for International Wild Life Protection byGeorge C. Ruhle. Published: American Committee for International Wild Life Protection, 1966.
  • Advisory report on national parks and reserves for the Republic of Korea, 1966; a report prepared for the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources and the American Committee for International Wild Life Protection, byGeorge C. Ruhle. Published: American Committee for International Wildlife Protection, 1968.
  • Roads and trails of Waterton-Glacier National Parks; the Ruhle handbook, byGeorge C. Ruhle, 1972.

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