Dr. Joan G. Ehrenfeld
{ "" }
Share Joan's life story with friends and family
Send an Email
Or Copy this URL to Share
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.

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in Home News Tribune on Jun. 26, 2011.
Memories & Condolences
Not sure what to say?
View Printed Guest Book
25 entries
June 20, 2019
Among the strong, compassionate, loving, and loving women in my memories, Joan stands out. She was always a steadfast friend to me and my family. I recall fondly the many hiking trips we took with our children, up and down wooded trails, searching for LBMs (little brown mushrooms), slogging through mucky mires, and ending each hike with big grins all around. I miss her, and I'm sure there are many friends and colleagues who share my feelings.
Daniel Breau
August 3, 2011
Very sad to hear it. She was a classy lady, impressive scientist. She'll be missed.
Dac Crossley
July 30, 2011
Sorry, we did not know and we were out of the country. Joan was one of the nicest, brightest, hardest working scientists that I ever knew. she will certainly be missed and is a significant loss to the scientific world.
Francine Buckley
July 7, 2011
I'm sorry I did not get more time to spend with Joan on the Highland Park Environmental Commission. She was a champion of ecology and living in harmony with the Earth. We will miss her so much.
Laurel Kornfeld
July 2, 2011
I got to know Joan 25 years ago when she became Director of the New jersey Water Resources Research Institute. I was Director of the companion Institute in California. Subsequently, the two of us served together on several committees of the National Research Council. Whenever, I needed ecological expertise on a Committee or to help with a report i thought of Joan. She was a terrific scholar and an absolutely wonderful person. I extend to all of you who were dear to her my profound sympathies and support at this difficult time.
Henry Vaux
July 1, 2011
Joan's death is a hard blow, both for those of us who knew her and for the future of environmental protection. I now regret we had not been in close touch since she and I gave back to back presentations at a conference of the New Jersey Assn of Conservation Commissions. Another lesson not to postpone collaboration. Even in my casual dealings with Joan she made a deep impression...smart and caring, gentle and tough. Her scientific contribution to local nature protection issues had impacts far beyond New Jersey. Her role as both a reseaarch scientist and a protection advocate was, if not unique, all too rare. She will be sorely missed.

David Burg
President, WildMetro
July 1, 2011
Dear David and family,
Scott and I are very saddened to hear of Joan's passing. Though it's been quite some time since we've seen each other, we still carry very fond memories of her. We wish you comfort and peace at this difficult time.
Cathy & Scott Whitener
June 29, 2011
Dr. Joan Ehrenfeld was one of the most remarkable people the world has ever seen. She was brilliant, kind, and creative - a tranquil soul and a force to be reckoned with, all at the same time. As an undergraduate at Cook College, I found myself saying things like, "One day I want my life to be like lives of David and Joan" while peering into their offices in the same hallway, admiring their passion for their work, as well as their love and commitment for each other and their family. I remember thinking if anything, I was definitely going to have beautiful long grey hair just like Joan.

She was one of those people you simply admire as an undergraduate, but become more astonished with as your career develops. Joan was, I think, the first to try and teach me what science and research were all about. She asked, "you think you like research?", and when I said yes she put me in a lab weighing soil samples very early on Friday mornings. That was a lesson. From then on, when Joan gave me advice about my career, I took it with no questions asked.

The last time I saw Joan in person, she was frantically finishing her Urban Long Term Research Area proposal to NSF. She was under strict deadlines, but still took some time to see how I was doing and talk about my career goals. When we both received ULTRA funding, I was ecstatic that I might actually have a chance to work with her after all of these years. I was honored when she expressed interest in collaboration.

When I heard she could not make it to the Ecological Society of America conference this year, I was sad, but in her emails she sounded so strong and confident. Of course leukemia was obviously taking its toll, but with her stability and strength I believed there was no way I was not ever going to see her again. Unfortunately, I was wrong.

Like others have said before me, in Joan Ehrenfeld's passing, the world has certainly lost a lot. Thank you Joan, for everything you have taught me. You will remain in my heart. I still hope to be like you one day.

Melissa McHale
June 29, 2011
Sam, Jon and Family -
I'm so sorry for your loss. All my love.
Liv Pedersen (NWL)
June 28, 2011
I will always remember of her kindness, love, smile and friendship towards my wife Mara who worked for her and was always treated as family. Dr. Joan Ehrenfeld is and will be one of the greatest loss to the human kind not to say to the universe. Nature specially will miss her the most. Thanks for being such a great person Dr. Joan.

Paulo Crus
June 27, 2011
Joan Ehrenfeld was one of the most humanly engaged people -- intelligent, endlessly curious about every aspect of the world around her, always seeking to ask better questions -- in short, a scientist's scientist. Among all of her outstanding attributes, one trait for me surpasses all others: she was a steadfast friend, one whose smile, whose caring words always had the power to heal.
Daniel Breau
June 27, 2011
It is with deep sadness that I learned about Joan’s passing. May her family take heart in knowing that honest and humble people never die. They simply become icons of what is best in mankind. I am sure Joan’s family is proud of her success and integrity in working to preserve the natural resources of New Jersey and her continued mentoring of others to do the same.
Tavit O. Najarian, Sc.D.
June 27, 2011
Although I was merely an undergrad, Joan would work along side with me as an equal. I remember offering to carry most of the heavy augers and shovels, but she would insist, and I eventually stopped offering. She was an inspiration and a really lovely soul.
Dan Skulski
June 27, 2011
We are all very sad here.
Joan, I will always remember you as the one who offered me the chances to work with you at Rutgers, to meet with so many nice people and to discover your great country. Thanks to you I learned so much. For all that I will always be grateful.

JC and Gwen
June 26, 2011
To all those who were touched by Joan's spirit, I am sorry for your loss. I know she will live on in the stories, the music, the passion for life and the love.
Debbi Parrott
June 26, 2011
To everyone who was touched by Joan's spirit, I am sorry for your loss. I know she will live on in the stories, the music, the passion for life and the love.
Debbi Parrott
June 26, 2011
Thank you and bless you for being such a positive force in the development of my son. The world is a poorer place for not having you. You will be greatly missed.
Andre Cantelmo
June 26, 2011
I had the great pleasure of working closely with Joan when I was Dean of Research and later Executive Dean at Cook College (now the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences) at Rutgers. June and I hatched a plan to revitalize the Water Resources Research Institute (WRRI) and recapitalize it in order for it to more fully deliver on its mandate. We were successful, largely dus to June's incredible commitment to excellence, the university and the WRRI. She was first class - clearly understood her role as a leader and scholar.

On a personal note, Joan's gentle approach to life and wonderful personality are probably what her colleagues will miss the most. She was caring and sensitive to the needs of others. This is a great loss to Rutgers. May your soul rest in peace, Joan, and may God grant your family solace from knowing that you touched the world in fundamental ways.
Soji Adelaja
June 26, 2011
Joan was a great scientist , a loving wife , a caring mother and a happy grandmother. We all will miss her smile and laughter for years to come . Marty & Connie Gardoqui
June 26, 2011
To the extended Ehrenfeld family,
Though Joan wasn't part of my life in recent years, I can't think about my life as a whole without delighting in the joy and light that she brought to it. Just as in the picture of her here, I will always remember her as a vibrant, strong, capable and wonderfully kind person. I am a better person for having had the privilege to know her. May God console you all among the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.
Daphne Steinberg
June 26, 2011
Joan was an amazing person. Women like her are few and far between. Her strength and ability to wear so many hats is truly inspiring!
Tamie Dickson
June 26, 2011
Joan sang in the HPCC. She was an ardent supporter even during this past year which we had hoped was a recovery period. You will be missed Joan.
Eileen O'Donnell
June 26, 2011
Joan sang in the HPCC. She was an ardent supporter even during this past year which we had hoped was a recovery period. You will be missed Joan.
June 26, 2011
This is sad and a great losss of someone who was so enthusistic
Som Mitra
June 26, 2011
How sad to learn of Joan's passing. My life was immesurably enriched during the 7 years I worked with her at Rutgers' CCES. While it has been over 20 years since I left there, I never forgot Joan's warmth, grace, and brilliance and never will. May Joan's family find comfort in something my pastor said once: "On the day you were born, you were crying and everyone else was rejoicing. On the day you die, everyone else is crying and you are rejoicing."
Denise Rucci
Invite others to add memories
Share to let others add their own memories and condolences