David Reed was a tireless researcher for science and conservation. A rare individual who was able to impact a wide section of the global academic conservation community, from students to established researchers, in his sadly foreshortened 13-year career. His work ran the gamut of theoretical investigations of conservation genetics and evolutionary biology, to fragmentation effects on fish and spiders, and habitat selection of Asiatic black bears. He was a particularly energetic supporter of conservation research in Thailand and of Thai students studying in both Thailand and USA. His death of congestive heart failure at the age of 48 is a huge personal loss for many and a great loss for conservation biology.
At the time of his death, David was an Associate Professor and the Wallace Chair of Conservation at the University of Louisville (from 2009), an editor of Animal Conservation (from 2010, where he was formerly an associate editor 2007–2010), and Associate Editor of Conservation Genetics (from 2006) and the Journal of Wildlife Thailand (from 2011). He was author of at least 47 peer-reviewed publications with several more submitted, in press and in preparation, generally in collaboration with colleagues around the world, including several at the University of Aarhus, Denmark, and the University of Kentucky, USA.
David was born in Mount Holly, New Jersey, to parents of modest means. By the time he was an undergraduate it became clear to his teachers that he had substantial abilities in math and science, and he was strongly encouraged to continue his studies of these subjects. Following his father's death, also from heart failure at an early age, his family struggled financially. David funded some of his college and graduate education by joining the military and completed several years of military service, including a period in Germany. He also served as a military policeman. His first degree was in economics and statistics at Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee (completed in 1988), after which he switched, fortunately for conservation, to biology for his PhD (completed in 1998). His doctoral work with Edwin Bryant at the University of Houston, Texas, involved research on conservation genetics of house flies – six papers were produced from this work, launching his career in the study of evolution and conservation. David then undertook a postdoctoral fellowship with Richard Frankham and David Briscoe at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia (1999–2001), where he completed some of his most widely cited papers. His work with the Macquarie group resulted in 10 publications and one letter cited a total of 1208 times (Web of Knowledge, as at 31 October 2011), encompassing experimental work with Drosophila, meta-analyses and population viability analysis (PVA) computer modeling. Highlights of his senior-authored work were his seminal meta-analysis papers published with Richard Frankham, Correlation between fitness and genetic diversity (Conservation Biology, 2003, cited > 400 times) and How closely correlated are molecular and quantitative measures of genetic variation? A meta-analysis (Evolution, 2001, cited > 300 times), and his PVA paper Estimates of minimum viable population size for vertebrates and factors affecting those estimates (Biological Conservation, 2003, cited > 100 times) with three other Macquarie authors and Jonathan Ballou from the Smithsonian National Zoo, Washington, DC. After joining the faculty at the University of Mississippi, and later the University of Louisville, he continued to focus on the links between fitness, genetic diversity (especially inbreeding depression), minimum viable population size and habitat fragmentation. His work during this time included Extinction risk in fragmented habitats published in Animal Conservation in 2004, and a series of papers using seed-feeding beetles as a model system for the study of purging of the genetic load and the environmental sensitivity of inbreeding depression.
Two years after becoming an assistant professor at the University of Mississippi, David began his academic investment in Thailand. In 2004 he was a Fulbright Scholar at Prince of Songkla University (Hat Yai) and again at Kasetsart University (Bangkok) in 2007–2008. In 2008 he began collaborating with researchers and students of the Conservation Ecology Program at King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi (Bangkok). During this all-too-brief period, he provided essential comments on statistics, experimental design, and many other technical topics in wildlife ecology and management (mark-recapture, occupancy, etc.) of organisms ranging from bulbuls to bears. He even found time to edit the English of student papers and had recently begun guiding his Thailand-based collaborators through their early attempts at molecular genetics. David was adviser and/or committee member to five Thai graduate students, in addition to multiple students and a postdoctoral associate at the University of Louisville, and provided critical comments on several other Thai student papers to prepare them for publication in international journals. David taught multiple courses during his trips to Thailand for little or no money, sometimes at his own personal expense. Many of the multi-authored papers with his Thai colleagues possibly never would have been completed, and certainly not as promptly as they were, without David's energy.
David was an active member of the IUCN/SSC Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG) since 2004, applying his population modeling expertise to conservation planning for a diverse range of species, including proboscis monkeys in Indonesia, Asiatic golden cats and clouded leopards in Thailand, Tsushima leopard cats and Okinawa rails in Japan, pangolins in Taiwan, and hellbenders and beach mice in USA. He also conducted formal and informal training activities for professional colleagues and contributed to modeling development discussions within the CBSG network.
David was well on his way to establishing a highly productive conservation and evolutionary genetics laboratory at the University of Louisville. He leaves behind his 6-year-old daughter Vanessa and wife Rasita, colleagues, a significant body of work and a small army of graduate students to carry on as best they can. It is our hope that his energy and drive will inspire those in the field to continue the daunting task of understanding and conserving biological diversity in its many forms. We will greatly miss our friend and scholar.