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Ian Alexander MCLAREN
1931 - 2020
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IAN ALEXANDER MCLAREN Marine biologist, Professor Emeritus and renowned birder Ian Alexander McLaren died at the age of 89 years, on July 29, 2020 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, after a brief stay in hospital with heart and breathing complications. Ian was born in Montréal on January 11, 1931 to Alexander Lithgow McLaren, a painter and commercial artist, and Christine (née Tabrett) McLaren, a schoolteacher. Ian had two sisters, Joyce (1926-2017) and Lois (1935-2000). Ian spent a dozen summers researching Arctic animals prior to joining Dalhousie University's Department of Biology in 1966. A lifelong advocate for birding, conservation, and biodiversity, with considerable research contributions in marine biology and ecology, Ian was always unfailingly generous with his time for people in all walks of life, and widely admired for his affability and good humour. His numerous graduate students during four decades arrived from all over the world, many working on the wildlife of Sable Island. Ian was the first President of the Canadian Nature Federation (now Nature Canada) in 1972, edited the Nova Scotia Bird Society's quarterly publication for many years, and was instrumental in establishing the Sable Island Preservation Trust and Nova Scotia Nature Trust. Ian will be best-known to many Nova Scotians for his regular appearances on CBC Radio answering listeners' bird identification questions through the 1990s and early 2000s. Early studies at McGill University saw him spending summers in Arctic marine and field research while completing BSc and MSc degrees. Ian was an extensive Arctic traveler up to the mid-1960s. He met his wife Bernice (née Orchard) in Montreal between trips to the North, before they married in her hometown of Miami Manitoba, in October 1956. She joined him as a research assistant when they spent the following summer at Ogak Lake on Baffin Island. Ian completed his PhD at Yale University, while continuing to travel as far north as Ellesmere Island. Moving back to Montreal in 1960, Ian taught at McGill for several years, but was lured to Halifax and Dalhousie University in 1966. He recognized this corner of our land as a birder's paradise, as well as a nexus of marine biology, with a growing research faculty and proximity to many island ecosystems, in a far milder climate than the Arctic. Here, he continued his work, publishing more than 100 scientific peer-reviewed articles and book chapters even after his official retirement. Ian devoted most of his efforts supporting dozens of graduate students and field research, while also teaching biology to thousands of undergraduate students, until his compulsory retirement in 1996. His career was recognized with several prestigious prizes, including the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee and Diamond Jubilee medals, the American Birding Association's prestigious Ludlow Griscom Award for Outstanding Contributions in Regional Ornithology, and most recently Nature Canada's Douglas H. Pimlott Award for lifetime achievements in conservation. Through a generous private donation, the Department of Biology at Dalhousie University established a graduate bursary in Ian's name in 2018. Ian will be sorely missed by those who knew him over the years, and by his many long-time friends in the birding community, who prize his synoptic guide All the Birds of Nova Scotia (2012), and treasured his companionship during Christmas Bird Counts among other 'twitching' adventures. Most of all, memories of his loving and dedicated spirit will be forever cherished by his surviving family: Bernice, to whom he was married for nearly 64 years; children Andrew, James, and Mary; and grandchildren Arthur, Lucas, Jacob, Oren, and Hermione. The family thanks the residents and staff of The Berkeley Halifax and Gladstone for their kindness over the past two years, and the staff of 6.1 at the Halifax Infirmary for the compassionate care Ian received. At his request, there will be no funeral service; a celebration of his life will be planned for a future date. As Ian had many interests, donations in his memory may be made to the Nova Scotia Bird Society, Nova Scotia Nature Trust, or a charity of your choice.

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Published in The Globe and Mail from Aug. 1 to Aug. 5, 2020.
Memories & Condolences
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11 entries
August 10, 2020
Ogac Lake
It was through meeting Ian as an undergraduate when he gave a lecture at Bishop's. University circa 1961 that I applied for a job with the Fisheries Research Board to work in the western Arctic, which I did and it launched me eventually into grad studies. I was Ian's first grad student at McGill where I worked on samples and observations of a landlocked, relict population of Atlantic Cod in Ogac Lake on Baffin island that Ian had collected over several years. The main notebook was one that had been kept by Bernice - that was during their honeymoon summer, in a tent, completely on their own on Baffin Island!* While at McGill doing my MSc with Ian I met my spouse, Nina, and we had a close relationship with Ian & Bernice. Eventually I wound up at Dal in the same dept as my "Academic Dad" (although in a different field by then). Ian always called me 'Young Man' and I called him 'Old Man' (in the sense of a father figure, not age). Ian was always a gentle man and a gentleman, that lovely smile tells all, with Bernice so much the other half. I have never stopped thinking of her as that young woman from the prairies. The children have their same gentle character and modesty. I have a couple of hilarious stories about Ian to do with cars, a car was just a car to Ian, not a prestige object for sure, a bird-watching tool first and foremost. Ian so modestly considered his many contributions to ornithology to be a bit of a hobby and secondary to his 'real research' on marine mammals and plankton for which he was well known. One of Ian's final works, perhaps the final in ornithology, is a volume on "All the Birds of Nova Scotia, Status and Critical Identification'(Gaspereau Press, 2012); it's unique and a treasure, like the author. Nina and I express our deep condolences to the family and gratitude for Ian's life. *There is a beautiful collection of wildflower pics and some scenes of Ogac Lake from Ian and Bernice's summer there at
David Patriquin
August 10, 2020
My condolences to the family. I enjoyed Ian's positive energy at McGill's Marine Sciences Centre and again at Dalhouse.
Gail Storey
August 10, 2020
I have beautiful memories of Christmasses staying at Ian and Bernice's home in Cambridge street. And Ian, Jamie and I made a wonderful journey from East to West Canada together, Ian was my dearest father in law and Arthur, our sons dearest grandfather, Irma Haverkamp
August 6, 2020
I have many fond memories of Ian from his Arctic Institue to McGill days and his influence in getting me accepted as a student at Dalhousie oceanography. He was always very approachable but it required a fair amount of technique to keep his attention for very long. Grin. He was always enthusiastic and encouraging and on the move his entire life.

Cheers, Ian.

Gareth Harding
August 5, 2020
I remember Ian very well from his house on Cambridge St. Andrew and I used to hang out sometimes back in the 1970's & I remember the other two siblings as well: Jamie and Mary. Thanks for the happy memories and all the best to the McLaren family as the grieve. God Bless.
Philip Elwood
August 4, 2020
Life adventurer - Saint-Pierre and Miquelon 2
Catalina Gomez
August 4, 2020
Life adventurer - Saint-Pierre and Miquelon
Catalina Gomez
August 4, 2020
My condolences to the family, lots of love from your family in Montreal.
Nick Ouellette
August 3, 2020
A monumental figure of intelligence, wisdom, candor and compassion and a mentor's mentor. He contributed so much in his long and adventurous life and he has left a huge legacy. A man not to be forgotten. We had lunch to together back in March and some phone chats later, and he was always on top of his game - quick witted as always.

My condolences to all, and I trust Bernice, with family help, will find a way through her loss that is surely devastating.
August 2, 2020
My sincere condolences to Bernice, Andrew, Jamie and Mary. Seal Island, birds and lobster; Sable Island, sparrows, seals and horses; the Halifax piggery in the winter; pigeon mayhem on Mont Royal in Montreal in the springtime to mention a few! To a life so well-lived with so many accomplishments and awards all well-deserved! He will be I missed by so many!

Sincerely Jacquie Welsh (Dan)
August 1, 2020
It is with great sorrow that we have learned Ian's departure. To Mary, Jamie, Andrew and Bernice, their family and friends, we offer our most sincere condolences.

Ian and I knew each other since 1963 when we met by chance on a birding outing on le-Sainte-Hélène in Montréal. Afterwards, we went together on numerous field trips. Later, Bernice, Ian and the children were like a second family to me during the five years I spent in Halifax, from 1968 to 1973. I was often at their place and they invited me to join them on far-away birding field trips, such as on Seal Island (offshore southwestern Nova Scotia). We had so many good moments together. My wife Simone met them in 1973, when we all went to Sable Island to conduct a census of the Ipswich Sparrow, and we have been in contact ever since.

Ian will be missed by all.

Simone Fugulin and Jean Boulva, Québec, Qc.
Jean Boulva
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