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Remembering a Colleague

2010 January 29

image of pilot, Ray Bentley, standing in front of an orange planeI had the pleasure of meeting Ray Bentley, a pilot-biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, last summer during a visit to EPA’s Western Ecology Division in Corvallis, Oregon, when he took me, photographer Eric Vance, and scientists Steven Klein and Scott Leibowitz on two flights to photograph and document ongoing EPA research from the air (I blogged about one of the flights for the August, 26 “Science Wednesday”)

Thanks to the skill, professionalism, and patience of our pilot, we landed with a portfolio of several hundred stunning aerial photographs to support science and outreach efforts, a far better understanding of EPA ecosystem services research, and a deeper appreciation for the spirit of collaboration between EPA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Thanks to Ray’s quick smile and generous spirit, the trip was both fruitful and fun.

Last week, I learned the tragic news that Ray, along with his passenger biologist David Pitkin, died on January 17 when their plane went down in a wooded area west of Philomath, OR. The two were returning from a day spent flying over estuaries along the Oregon coast, counting ducks, geese, and swans for an annual mid-winter waterfowl survey.

Even though I only spent the better part of an afternoon with Ray, he made a big impression. His love of flying and wildlife were evident. As a wildlife aficionado and former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employee myself, I loved hearing his tales of survey flights over wilderness areas and National Wildlife Refuges from Chesapeake Bay to Alaska. He even extended our first flight a few minutes to see if he could find a grey whale to show us off the coast of Newport. (No such luck.)

One of the best parts of my job is getting to work with people—scientists, photographers, and pilot-biologists included—who clearly love what they do. Ray’s passion for flying and wildlife conservation were obvious, and infectious. The flights he took us on were the highlight of a great week, and I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with him.

I offer my heartfelt condolences to the families, and many friends and colleagues of Ray Bentley and David Pitkin.

About the Author: Aaron Ferster is the lead science writer-editor for EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

7 Responses leave one →
  1. armansyahardanis permalink
    January 29, 2010

    Ya, each doing have risks anytime and anyplace. I’d remembered in 1983 when I surveyed of Hydrology in Teluk Melano-West Kalimantan.
    One of our team was died by river accident. We had empty heart that time and imagined who’s his families were so lost. Bye Ray & David…

  2. Joan permalink
    January 29, 2010

    Thanks Aaron–despite the profound sadness felt by Ray’s many colleagues within the EPA and elsewhere, many will also remember the joy with which he carried out his life’s work.

  3. David Mc permalink
    January 30, 2010

    Sounds like he was a great man. Peace and comfort to all.

  4. Anonymous permalink
    February 1, 2010

    Ray was my friend for 23 years. We didn’t see each other that much as we live in different areas of th estate, but we had the kind of deep respect for each other and friendship that didn’t require constant contact. Over he years we worked, hunted, fished, flew, and hiked together. I was lucky enough to take a trip to Alaska with “Raymundo”….and I was very lucky to have called him friend.

    Simon Wray
    Fish & Wildlife Biologist
    ODFW

  5. Simon Wray permalink
    February 1, 2010

    Ray was my friend for 23 years. We didn’t see each other that much as we live in different areas of th estate, but we had the kind of deep respect for each other and friendship that didn’t require constant contact. Over he years we worked, hunted, fished, flew, and hiked together. I was lucky enough to take a trip to Alaska with “Raymundo”….and I was very lucky to have called him friend.

    I cannot imagine Ray being too old to do all the things he loved, and although I know he wasn’t ready to go out yet, he got to go out doing one of the things he loved best, and at the top of his game. I think that that thought would have made him smile; it makes me smile.

    Simon Wray
    Biologist
    ODFW

  6. Yason permalink
    April 14, 2010

    I am sorry

  7. Emma permalink
    July 23, 2011

    Aaron, I’ve never known Ray on a personal note.But reading your tributes to him,i certainly feel the wildlife world has lost a friend and a lover.Flying + wildlife,what a combination ! but clearly enjoyed what he did. May his soul rest in peace,Amen.

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