In Memoriam: Bill Freedman

Dr. Bill Freedman, a lifelong naturalist, conservationist and highly respected Environmental Scientist, taught and conducted research in the Department of Biology and in the School for Resources and Environmental Studies at Dalhousie University from 1979 to 2015.

He served as Chair of the Biology Department from 2000-2007; held the George H.S. Campbell Chair in Biology from 2007-2010 and was appointed an Emeritus Professor upon retirement in 2015. His keen interest in nature began as a young child, living among the wooded ravines of Toronto. A young Bill would often bring home snakes, frogs and other creatures that he would care for. His love of nature continued, eventually leading him to study biology at the University of Toronto and thereafter would touch every aspect of his life. While Bill's profession focused on the devastating toll of humanity on the environment, his optimism for change remained and encouraged all those who worked with him.

All of Bill’s teaching and research examined effects of economic activities on ecosystems and biodiversity. Most of his research was conducted in the Arctic and in boreal and temperate forest regions of Canada. Bill travelled widely outside of Canada to observe ecosystems and biodiversity and to gather case-study materials for use in teaching and in textbooks. Bill’s classes in Ecology, Environment and Sustainability were always well subscribed. Bill was a prolific writer, publishing 10 books (amongst them the first Canadian Environmental Science textbook, now in its 5th ed), more than 100 refereed papers, several hundred reports for government and several thousand encyclopedia articles. One of his final efforts was to coordinate and edit a comprehensive, multi-authored volume on Sable Island. In 2006, Bill received a Canadian Environmental Award, Gold Medal Level in the category of Community Awards for Conservation from the Canadian Geographic Society.

Bill's love for nature permeated his lifestyle, research, teaching and writing. One of his personal projects was to naturalize his urban yard by planting native species in associations similar to those found in nature.

As Chair of Biology, Bill was intimately concerned with the health and well-being of all members of the department. He strove to ensure transparency and equity in workload distribution and met annually with faculty and staff to personally discuss teaching and workplace issues. In 2007, he received a Career Achievement Award from the Canadian Council of University Biology Chairs. He will be remembered by so many for his genuine concern and compassion for people and nature, his wry sense of humor, and his warm and engaging smile.

Bill was a long-term volunteer with the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) serving in various functions including 26 years on the national Board of Directors (1991-2015) and a term as Chair of the Board of Directors. Recently, the NCC renamed a coastal reserve in Prospect, Nova Scotia, in his honour as the Dr. Bill Freedman Nature Reserve.

Bill asked that any donations in memoriam be directed to the Nature Conservancy of Canada, Atlantic Region. The NCC has created a new Science-In-Conservation Internship—in Bill’s name—to be awarded annually to a student at Dalhousie.

His full obituary can be found here.