Walt Crissey

  • Walt Crissey is considered by many to be the ‘father of aerial wildlife surveys.’ Following graduation from Cornell University in 1937 with a degree in wildlife research and management, Walt first worked for the New York Department of Conservation. During WWII, he served as a pilot in the Navy, where he honed the flying skills that would prepare him for his eventual career as a pilot biologist. His U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service career began in 1949, as Assistant Chief of the Section of Waterfowl Management Investigations, where one of his first challenges was to develop a way of measuring the annual size and distribution of the duck population on key breeding areas of the north-central states and the southern portions of the Prairie Provinces of Canada. It wasn’t long before Walt and others developed the foundation for what has become the world’s foremost wildlife survey- the annual spring population survey of North America’s waterfowl breeding grounds. In 1961, he was appointed Director of the Service’s Migratory Bird Populations Station in Laurel, Maryland, where he emphasized the development of more accurate and reliable data-gathering programs that enhanced the understanding of the dynamics of migratory bird populations from a continental perspective. He served in this capacity until 1972, when he became a Senior Scientist for the Service. Walt retired in 1975 and has been recognized widely for his many contributions to the wildlife profession, including the Department of the Interior’s Distinguished Service Award. He has maintained his life-long interest in wildlife and other natural resource issues throughout retirement.