Ralph E. Good
Director, Biology Graduate Program
Rutgers University-Camden Campus, New Jersey

Dr. Ralph E. Good was a distinguished ecologist at Rutgers University for 24 years and served as professor of botany, director of the graduate program in biology at the Rutgers-Camden campus, and director of the Rutger’s Division of Pinelands Research. He loved the streams, pygmy pines, and cedar swamps of the New Jersey Pinelands and dedicated his life’s work to studying and protecting them.

Born in Chicago, Dr. Good earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in botany from the University of Illinois. and a Ph.D. in ecology from Rutgers University. His doctoral research was in salt marsh ecology-an area not very well studied at the time, and one that he maintained an interest in throughout his career.

Described as “a scientist with a heart,” Dr. Good’s research and spirited advocacy helped lead to the preservation of the New Jersey Pinelands. He believed that its uniqueness and fragility required extraordinary amounts of protection. His efforts produced the scientific information that led to the creation of the Pinelands National Reserve by Congress in 1978.

His love and concern for the New Jersey Pinelands allowed him to combine his commitment to public service with his research interests, which focused on the coastal plain ecosystem complex of southern New Jersey. Working closely with the Pinelands Commission, a state planning and regulatory agency with jurisdiction over the Pinelands National Reserve, he created the Rutgers Division of Pinelands Research in 1981 and served as its director. The division’s research was guided by a 1982 National Science Foundation-sponsored workshop that included 35 researchers and resource managers invited by Dr. Good to discuss ecological solutions to environmental management concerns in the Pinelands National Reserve.

He also established a research station in the Pinelands and obtained funding for several postdoctoral fellows who completed research in wetlands management, vegetation dynamics, and geochemistry. Other research projects included the impact of acid rain on pine and oak woods that have been fragmented by development.

At the research station, Dr. Good and his students studied the Pinelands under a microscope. He took a deep personal interest in his students and encouraged them to develop their own research projects. He kept track of his postdoctoral students after they left Pinelands research. Dr. Good was also a member of the university’s graduate programs in biology, ecology, and botany/plant physiology. He held a strong commitment to education and frequently taught courses in plant geography, ecology, general biology, and many special topic seminars. He was respected as a teacher and an unusually accessible and generous mentor.

Recently, Dr. Good was instrumental in having the Pinelands designated as Coastal Plain Biosphere Reserve under the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Man and the Biosphere Program (MAB). Established in 1970, the objective of MAB is to develop a scientific basis for linking the natural and social sciences for the rational use and conservation of the biosphere and for the improvement of the relationship between humans and their environment.

Dr. Good was an active member of many scientific societies. From 1983 to 1986, he served on the Board of Directors of the American Institute of Biological Sciences. He was the business manager for the Ecological Society of America from 1973-1979, and its vice president from 1978-1980. In 1989, he was awarded a Distinguished Service Citation from the society. He also served as president of the New Jersey Academy of Sciences from 1978-1980. He was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a member of New Jersey Governor’s Science Advisory Committee, and a consultant to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the National Park Service. In 1985, he received the Rutgers Presidential Award for Distinguished Public Service.

Dr. Good passed away last year and is survived by his wife, Norma, and their daughter, Karen. His leadership and contributions in tidal wetlands research and Pinelands preservation will be greatly missed.

— Marjorie Wesley Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds Environmental Protection Agency