People passionate about nature

H. Albert Hochbaum

Ernest Thompson Seton Medal recipient 1986

Honorary Member 1976

Born at Greele, Colorado, H. Albert (Al, to his friends) did his undergraduate work in ornithology at Cornell University under Arthur Allen. Under the tutelage of Aldo Leopold his post-graduate studies earned him an M.Sc. in Wildlife Management at the University of Wisconsin. It was at this time that Al took a step that was to change his life and that of many others.

It was in 1938 that Albert Hochbaum was sent to Delta to begin his research at what, a year later, became known as the Delta Duck Station. For the next four years Aldo Leopold, Miles Pirnie and William Rowan acted as the station's advisory board, and they sponsored Al's first book, "The Canvas-back on a Prairie Marsh," published in 1944. The book brought together Al's dual skills as writer and artist, but perhaps most importantly it focused the fact that no phase of game policy was more encumbered with conflicting opinion than that which governed the sport of hunting of waterfowl - remember this refers to the early '40s - even then Al was concerned with the broad conservation problems involved in the maintenance of waterfowl populations in the wild. The studies he outlined in his book were considered by Alexander Wetmore to be of major importance for any program for waterfowl management. "The Canvas-back on a Prairie Marsh" earned the Brewster Medal of the American Ornithologists Union and the Literary Award of the Wildlife Society.

From 1938-70 Al was the Director of the Delta Waterfowl Research Station. During this time 95 graduate students from 38 universities conducted their M.Sc. and Ph.D. thesis research at Delta, and Al wrote many scientific papers and articles including his second book, "Travels and Traditions of Waterfowl," published in 1955. This skilled writer, painter, illustrator and scientist pulled together his ever-increasing knowledge of waterfowl and their habitats in his third book, "To Ride the Wild." Published in 1973 it chronicles the Delta Marsh, its wild ducks, geese and swans. It brings to the fore the fact that the world population of canvas-backs, once numbered in the millions, has dwindled through overkill to 200,000 and that in some marshes mallards are now rare birds. As Sir Peter Scott said in the forward, Al is a great storyteller, and as he talks he illustrates the past, the present and the possible future of ducks all across the North American continent and around the world. He finds simple truths in the immensely complicated and unendingly fascinating natural world around us.

But Al is not only a man of the marsh. Since 1960 he has made many trips to the Canadian Arctic mainly along the west coast of Hudson Bay, Bathurst Island and Arctic islands where he has a particular interest in tundra wolves and caribou. Many paintings and drawings of his arctic travels have been completed for his next book.

Al's art hangs in many private, corporate and museum collections. He was commissioned by the city of Portage la Prairie to paint a picture to be presented to Queen Elizabeth in 1970. He has illustrated seven books.

Albert Hochbaum's accomplishments have not gone unnoticed. In 1962 he received an Honorary LLD from the University of Manitoba; in 1970 he received the CBC Wilderness Medal, and the Manitoba Medal of Honour; the Crandall Conservation Award followed in 1975 and the Order of Canada in 1979.

He has given many lectures and seminars, counselled many students, become widely known for his artistry and wonderful skill with words.

But he has not done this alone. Joan, his lady of the marsh, has always been there, welcoming visitors with exuberant warmth and good food, caring in due course for their four children and providing a haven for their grandchildren.

Al has had a full and productive life and we honour him because he is a distinguished naturalist with an enthusiastic commitment to the study of Manitoba's natural history. Like Seton, he has systematically and carefully recorded observations of nature, stimulated the interest and co-operation of others, and eagerly shared all acquired knowledge.