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Coupland, Robert Thomas (1920– 2002)

Bob Coupland was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1920 and lived there until 1941, when he moved with his parents to a farm near Eriksdale. He won a Dominion-Provincial Youth Training Scholarship to take a vocational course in Agriculture at the University of Manitoba, and completed a BSA degree in Agriculture in 1946. During summers he worked at the Experimental Station, Canada Department of Agriculture, Swift Current. He earned a PhD at the University of Nebraska in 1946, studying with J.E. Weaver.

In 1948 Dr. Coupland was appointed assistant professor and Head of the Department of Plant Ecology at the University of Saskatchewan. As a specialist on weeds, he served as a member of the National Weed Committee and as its chairman in l954 and 1955, when he began issuing research reports. He was also a member of the Saskatchewan Advisory Weed Council, chairing it in 1963 and 1964. From 1948 to 1954 he was a member of the Grassland Subcommittee of the National Pasture Committee. He was chairman of the Saskatchewan Committee on Ecology and Preservation of Grasslands from 1953 to 1964.

By 1957 he had become professor of Plant Ecology at the University of Saskatchewan. Bob Coupland was science editor of the Canadian Journal of Plant Science from 1959 to 1963 and a member of the editorial board of Ecology from 1962 to 1964. He was an exchange scientist to the Soviet Union in 1961, carrying out discussions on Soviet grassland ecological problems. During that year, he chaired a symposium at the 10th International Botanical Congress.

Coupland’s major contribution to science was as director of the Centre of the International Biological Program Grasslands Studies, Matador, Saskatchewan, from 1966 to 1976. This was a major world project utilizing many scientists who produced an extensive list of publications. During his university career from 1948 to 1985, he became internationally recognized as an expert on grassland ecology. He wrote five books, edited four others, and wrote many other publications; he was also considered an excellent teacher. A major article concerning him appears in the fifteenth edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Dr. Coupland was awarded the Canadian Centennial Medal for service to Canada. In 1976 he was made a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London. He received the Certificate of Merit in 1985 from Environment Canada for his work on prairie grasslands. Upon retirement he was appointed Emeritus Professor, Department of Plant Science and Ecology, University of Saskatchewan. He continued making contributions as Honorary Visiting Professor, Northeastern Normal University, Changchun, People’s Republic of China in 1984–85. He was further recognized by being appointed an Officer in the Order of Canada in 1995.

Bob Coupland had married Irene Butterworth. He died in Saskatoon in 2002.

U. Theodore Hammer

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Further Reading

Coupland, R.T. 1974. “Conservation of Grasslands in Canada.” Pp. 93–111 in J.S. Maini and A. Carlisle (eds.), A Conspectus. Ottawa: Environment Canada; ——. 1979. Grassland Ecosytems of the World: Analysis of Grasslands and Their Uses. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; ——. 1992. Natural Grasslands: Introduction, Western Hemisphere. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
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