Program History

With lumber salvaged from a razed dormitory, four abandoned troughs, redwood shake bolts from a barrel factory, 10,400 salmon eggs delivered from the Little River on Feb. 24, 1940, and later enough beef livers and spleens (thanks to the State Division of Meat Inspection) to keep the small fry fed, the study of Natural Resources and Fisheries was spawned at Humboldt State 57 years ago.

The main character as this fish story began was Hortense Lanphere, a purposeful woman who taught science courses intermittently while her husband, William, was a botany professor. When Lanphere cast her proposal for a fish hatchery before then University President Arthur Gist and Dean of Instruction Homer Balabanis, "they considered it to be a relatively harmless venture. They obliged because they saw it as a possible way of adding enrollment to the small college that was suffering through the Depression; and they had a promise it would not cost anything."

There was no cost to Humboldt State, anyway. In spring 1940, the dozen students in the first class, Lanphere's "Hatchery Biology," each paid $2 to enroll. In the summer of 1940, the 9,963 healthy fingerling salmon they raised were returned to the Little River and began to venture forth and grow. Then so did study of Natural Resources and Fisheries at Humboldt.

Wrote Professor Fred Telonicher in 1954: "The success of the course in hatchery biology created a tremendous amount of interest and enthusiasm among students, college staff and the general public." Local sportsmen were particularly impressed, and the following year saw the birth of the game bird project, conservation education and wildlife management courses. "This was the beginning of the wildlife program."

Again with skeptical--"but it's harmless"--approval from the administration, Telonicher and Harry MacGinitie, science division chair, began developing the game bird pens. With help from the Works Progress Administration, the first pens were completed in 1941. The state's chief of game birds personally delivered 250 day-old pheasant chicks. Some of the quail and pheasant eggs were incubated in Telonicher's own home.

Like chicks leaving the nest each in their own time, the programs began to take sanctioned flight: a two-year wildlife program began in 1941-42; a four-year program in 1946; a degree program in fisheries in 1949; a two-year pre-forestry program in 1953, developed by Ed Pierson, soon became a four-year program; in 1956 a new Division of Natural Resources, offering master's degrees in Natural Resources, with options in Fisheries and Wildlife Management, came out from under the wing of the Division of Science; oceanography, range management and resources planning and interpretation spun off in the 1960s.

In 1967, Humboldt State University became the location for the California Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. Two full-time fishery research scientists staffed the Unit and soon came to play a major role in the Fisheries Biology Department's Masters degree program. About that same time, the Telonicher Marine Laboratory was constructed in Trinidad, originally as a Fisheries Laboratory; this facility was expanded in 1974. The Fisheries program continued to grow and prosper and the Natural Resources programs at HSU came to have a preeminent role at Humboldt State University.

Today, the Fisheries Program at HSU enrolls 125-140 undergraduates and about 30 graduate students annually; and the Natural Resources programs are under the umbrella of the College of Natural Resources and Sciences. On August 27, 1999, the departments of Fisheries and Wildlife dedicated the newly completed Wildlife and Fisheries Building. These two nationally recognized programs now have an academic habitat to match their acclaim.

Who knows what the next 50 years may bring?!