One of the measures I use to judge the quality of my career is who I get to count as a mentor. People like Dr. George Archibald, co-founder of the International Crane Foundation and likely the world’s leading crane expert, or even Dr. Jane Goodall who needs no introduction, have helped me along the way. On that esteemed list, I include Walter Sturgeon who recently retired from our Board of Directors. Walter has a long list of retirements beginning when he left an impressive career as a nuclear engineer. He then became the Deputy Director of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. At the same time he was president of the International Wild Waterfowl Association for twenty three years, raised his own flock of cranes and was a thirty year trustee of the Whooping Crane Conservation Association. 

Beyond all of that, Walter was part of our migration team since 2005 and served on our Board of Directors since 2007. He has broken many speed limits while trying to stay under our aircraft so he could help track drop-out birds. He fed the crew hundreds of meals, taught many of us to appreciate good scotch and entertained us with a million stories. He helped us fight our battles, raise our funds and save our cranes. More than that, he has become a trusted friend and an inspiration to far more than just me. Walter is the first Director Emeritus of Operation Migration and his legacy can be seen migrating twice a year in the Eastern Flyway. 

Right: Joe Duff presents Walter Sturgeon (left) with a photograph in appreciation for the time he served on our Board before retiring.

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  1. JeanFromLodi February 15, 2017 9:17 pm

    When I invited Jo to come with whoever to shower in our close-to-Lodi-WI home two years ago during that LOOONG cold spell, I had no real appreciation of the expertise, dedication and uniqueness of my guests. Until they started to tell stories. I was brand new to OM but to this day can see Walter on the couch telling tales, Joe explaining the unexplainable while petting our old dog, and Heather and Jo relaxing in comfortable chairs for a change. It was a brief moment for all of us, but one that I won’t forget. You all inspired me. Walter, congratulations!

    • Heather Ray February 16, 2017 5:11 am


  2. Kerry Brookman February 7, 2017 2:51 pm

    Thank you thank you thank you Walter for your guidance with OM and enrichment of the lives of uncountable birds.

  3. Marilyn February 7, 2017 11:05 am

    What a great example of a dedicated, loving and generous human being. Wonderful tribute, Joe. Thank you for all you did, Mr. Sturgeon. We appreciate you, more than you can know.

  4. Dora Giles February 7, 2017 10:21 am

    What a wonderful list of accomplishments with The Whooping Cranes being the “most important” to us who love these beautiful birds. Thank you Mr.Sturgeon for all you have done. You will be greatly missed.


  5. Sue McCurdy February 7, 2017 9:50 am

    What a wonderful tribute Joe.

  6. Vivienne Rimoldi February 7, 2017 9:05 am

    What a list of incredible accomplishments! What an honour to have Mr. Sturgeon on the Board for all those years and for us craniacs to know that he was always backing up the OP pilots en route during migrations. Thank you.

  7. Glenda May February 7, 2017 8:40 am

    Beautiful people, beautiful work…thank you for this oasis of kindness, care, compassion, and hard work on behalf of the wonderful cranes.

  8. Dave Sapko February 7, 2017 7:25 am

    Thank you Mr Sturgeon.