Lawrence J. Niles

M.S. Wildlife Management, 1976

Lawrence J. Niles earned two degrees at Penn State – a B.S. in Zoology in 1973 and an M.S. in Wildlife Management in 1976. His master’s degree field study examined old field and forest small mammal populations prior to sewage effluent irrigation. He completed his doctoral degree two decades later at Rutgers University with a dissertation focused on migratory raptors.

Following completion of his master’s degree, Larry worked for two years as Forest Technician at the Belle Baruch Forest Science Institute at Clemson University, followed by more than four years as Regional Game Biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources conducting research and management of white-tailed deer and black bears.

In late 1982 Larry left Georgia and became Principal Zoologist in the Endangered and Nongame Species (ENS) Program with the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife. He coordinated and supervised the ENS Program’s more than 25 research and management projects. He developed management plans on public lands important to endangered and threatened species, led the Bald Eagle Restoration Project, the Migratory Raptor Project, and the Delaware Bay Shorebird Migration Project, Beachnesting and Colonial Bird projects, and assisted in administration and planning for the Endangered and Nongame Species Program.

 In 1992 Larry was promoted to ENS Program Chief and led this program until his retirement in 2006. During his tenure, Larry doubled the ENS program budget and developed a non-profit, The Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, which raised funds to support ENS projects. He devoted a significant portion of the Program’s resources to two major initiatives.

The first initiative was a landscape-level conservation system called the Landscape Map, which maps critical wildlife habitats and makes them available to all potential users on the internet. The Landscape Map has become a major part of the state’s land planning initiatives. The second initiative was an expansion of wildlife monitoring in support of the Landscape Map, including new surveys that rely on qualified volunteers.

Larry also led the development of the division’s first Wildlife Action Plan that describes the priority directions for rare species conservation over the next ten years. Two examples of species responses during his tenure are endangered bald eagles, which increased from one nest to a record 59 active pairs, and endangered peregrine falcon populations, which increased from four nests on buildings to a high of 20 nests including three on historic cliff sites.

For nine months following his retirement from the division, Larry served as Chief Biologist with The Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey. In this capacity he developed funding and created a Habitat Conservation Plan handbook and evaluation procedure useful to current habitat planning initiatives. He also led an international team of biologists to complete a status assessment of the red knot for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and, in 2008, the agency used the draft version of this assessment to support its recommendation for federal listing the red knot as a threatened species.

In 2007 Larry started his own consulting company to pursue independent research and management projects on shorebird ecology and conservation and habitat conservation through planning and restoration. Nearly all of his projects are funded by federal and state wildlife agencies and foundations and are carried out in partnership with many groups, including Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ, Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, NJ Audubon Society, and Defenders of Wildlife. He is currently managing a $5.2 million project to restore marsh and beach on Delaware Bay, and a $1.1 million project on restoring beach nester habitat in Stone Harbor, NJ.

Larry has shared his expertise through considerable community service work. He served on both the environmental commission and the planning board in Dennis Township, Cape May County, NJ, when he lived there. Since moving to historic Greenwich, NJ, he has been part of the Sustainable Greenwich “Green Team,” an advisory committee to township government, which helped the community become certified under the Sustainable Jersey initiative. He serves on the Greenwich Dike Committee, which has been charged by the township to pursue solutions to the growing threat of rising sea levels and flooding. He also volunteers with the County of Cumberland to develop large-scale planning to address sea level rise and flooding in marsh habitats along the Delaware Bay.

Larry has served as chair of the Northeastern Partners in Flight Working Group (national landbird conservation plan) and as co-chair of the North Atlantic Shorebird Working Group (national shorebird plan). He has also served on the North American All-Bird Conservation Committee, the National Shorebird Council, the Adaptive Resource Management Committee of the Atlantic States Marine Fish Commission, and on the Executive Board of the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network. As well as work in Delaware Bay, most east coast states, Texas and California, he has led expeditions to the Canadian Arctic and the Argentine and Chilean portions of Tierra del Fuego and the northern coast of Brazil, to conduct shorebirds surveys and site protection. The members of these expeditions included scientists from seven different countries.

In 2008 Larry received the NJ Audubon Richard Kane Conservation Award, which is presented to a person who has made a significant contribution to the conservation of birds, wildlife, natural resources and habitat in New Jersey. In 2009 Larry was recognized by the Littoral Society with the Graham Macmillan Award, which honors “an individual or group for exceptional contributions to marine conservation and science.” He has authored dozens of peer-reviewed scientific articles, has published a monograph on shorebirds, and a book on New Jersey Endangered Species.

Larry and wife Amanda Dey were part of the 2008 PBS Nature documentary, Crash: A Tale of Two Species, which portrays the dependent relationship of migrating red knot and breeding horseshoe crabs. Larry also publishes a blog, A Rube with a View, which revolves around his experience as a scientist and conservationist and advocates for those who want sustainable use and natural wealth protection for generations to come.

Reflecting on his 35-year career protecting and managing wildlife, Larry commented, “the fate of natural resources and of our nation’s rural communities are one – the interwoven fate of both are the central issue of conservation. The welfare of rural communities depends on well-managed natural resources fairly distributed, first of all, to the residents working on those resources. The epidemic of rural poverty in this country cannot be distinguished from the pervasive industrial-scale and short-term model that now dominates natural resource management. Creating middle class natural resource jobs as part of long-term and landscape-level natural resource management plan is the greatest conservation issue of our time.”