"In crossing much of Illinois, the highway traveler is exposed to a relentless panorama of corn and soybeans, the economic power of the state. There is another part, however, masked from casual view and unknown to most citizens. Illinois is blessed with an array of landscapes, richly diverse in plant and animal life…" – Lorin I. Nevling, former INHS director, from the forward to Illinois Wilds
Dr. Lorin Nevling had a significant impact on science in Illinois, and I was fortunate to share a number of years collaborating with him.
He received his doctoral training in systematic botany at the Missouri Botanical Garden and the Henry Shaw School of Botany, Washington University. He came to Illinois from Boston where he was at Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum, went on to the Field Museum in Chicago for 14 years, and then was appointed by the Board of Natural Resources and Conservation as chief of the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) in 1987. He retired from the survey at the end of 1996. He was a trustee of the Illinois Chapter of The Nature Conservancy (TNC) from 1997 through 2018 and was a founding member of its Science Advisory Committee.
Within state government, he served as a member of the Governor’s Science Advisory Committee, a statutory advisor to the Nature Preserves Commission, and a statutory member of the Interagency Committee on Pesticides. Dr. Nevling also served as president of the American Society of Plant Taxonomists, the Association of Science Museum Directors, and the Association of Systematic Collections.
He was known as a scientist, an administrator, a counselor, and a public servant. He made contributions as a scientist to the systematics of higher plants, especially the family Thymelaeaceae, and served in many capacities to the national botanical community, authoring more than 80 scientific publications. In his career as a scientific administrator at the Herbaria of Harvard University, the Field Museum in Chicago, and the Illinois Natural History Survey, he was a strong leader who retained a sense of focus on the big picture of research organizations for the future.
What I appreciated in my time with Lorin was his sense of humor, his ability to tell interesting stories, and his insights into the workings of state government. He was perceptive in his observations and could be very persuasive in his defense and promotion of the work of the scientific surveys. I came from Boston to Champaign in 1985 to become the first Director of the newly formed Hazardous Waste Research and Information Center, at the time under the Illinois State Water Survey. I worked closely with the Chiefs of the other scientific surveys, and when Lorin took over leadership of the INHS we began our many trips together to Springfield to argue for the budgets and programs of our respective organizations. I followed Dr. Nevling as Chief of the Natural History Survey from 1998 to 2008, and followed him as a Trustee of the Illinois TNC and a member of its Science Advisory Committee. Thus, there were more trips around the state that we shared, and more stories. Lorin liked fishing for muskies, and as a fisherman myself I enjoyed his stories about fishing, as well as his stories of family, politics, and science.
Lorin was not only a colleague but a friend, and will be missed by so many in the state that were fortunate to know him.
-- written by former INHS director David L. Thomas