Dr. Joan G. Ehrenfeld

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Dr. Joan G. Ehrenfeld

AGE: 63 • Highland Park

Dr. Joan G. Ehrenfeld, 63, a distinguished scientist, died at her home in Highland Park, New Jersey on June 25, 2011, after a year-long battle with acute leukemia.

Dr. Ehrenfeld spent her 35-year career as a Rutgers University professor of ecology studying plant communities around New Jersey, ranging from the Pine Barrens to the urban wetlands of Rahway. She was internationally recognized as a leading voice on plant ecology. Born in New York City, Dr. Ehrenfeld earned a bachelor's degree, magna cum laude, in Biology from Barnard College in 1969, and then earned a Master's degree from Harvard University in 1970 and a Ph.D. from the City University of New York in 1975.

Dr. Ehrenfeld was a role model for undergraduates, graduate students and post-doctoral fellows, showing through her example that it is possible for a woman to raise a family and also be a leader in the sciences. She was inexhaustible - returning from long days in the field or lab to cook dinners from scratch, help with homework, and juggle the needs of four children. She instilled a great love in her children for the things she loved most: wilderness, music, theater, and opera. She delighted in being a grandmother, sharing the same books, songs and games with her three grandchildren that she had filled her children's lives with years before.

Her career was marked by boundless curiosity and a wide range of professional interests; for example, some of her recent work examined the role of biodiversity in the spread of West Nile Virus. She received numerous scientific awards, and delivered lectures around the world, in such locations as Bangalore, India; Lunteren, the Netherlands; Cuiaba, Brazil; and Beijing and Xiamen, China. She received millions of dollars in research grants, served on National Science Foundation panels, and was honored by being elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Dr. Ehrenfeld was a lover of music, singing in the Highland Park Choir and playing piano, and she was a leader in her Jewish community.

She is survived by her brother, Robert Gardner; husband, David Ehrenfeld; her children, Kate Gardoqui and her husband Daniel Gardoqui, Jane Dimyan-Ehrenfeld and her husband Michael Dimyan, Jonathan Ehrenfeld and his wife Emily Ford, and Samuel Ehrenfeld; and three grandchildren.

Funeral services will be held on Monday, June 25, at the Highland Park Conservative Temple/Congregation Anshe Emeth, corner of Third Avenue and Benner Street, at a time to be announced. Arrangements are under the direction of Crabiel Parkwest Funeral Chapel, 239 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference.

Published in Home News Tribune on June 26, 2011
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