Charles E. “Chuck” Huntington, professor of biology emeritus and former director of the Bowdoin Scientific Station on Kent Island, died on January 2, 2017, surrounded by his family. He was 97 years old.  

Huntington earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Yale University in 1942. He served in the U.S. Naval Reserve during World War II and was released to inactive duty in 1946 as a lieutenant, at which point he returned to Yale, earning his doctorate in biology in 1952.

Huntington began teaching in the biology department at Bowdoin in 1953 after being introduced to the Bowdoin Scientific Station on Kent Island in the Bay of Fundy by Ray Paynter ’47, a fellow graduate student at Yale.

“Chuck fell in love with the place,” said Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Natural Sciences Nat Wheelwright of Huntington’s relationship with Kent Island. “[When he started teaching at Bowdoin] he wandered out to Kent Island to figure out what to study, and there he found these small birds that are relatives of albatrosses called Leach’s storm petrels. They’re about the size of a robin, and they nest in burrows in the ground and so Chuck decided to essentially dedicate his life to learning about the biology of Leach’s storm petrels.” 

Huntington ended up studying Leach’s storm petrels for more than half a century. His work with the Leach’s storm petrel may be one of the most detailed and longest running studies of a single animal population in the field of biology. 

“He single-mindedly continued returning to Kent Island summer after summer and would reach into these holes, pull the birds out, put bands on them,” said Wheelwright. “If they already were banded, [he] would look into his records to see how old they were and who they had been mated with through their entire life, so it was a really detailed, long-term focused study of survival, reproduction, longevity in one population of birds.”

Wheelwright noted that Huntington continued to return to the island until only a few years ago when he became unable to do so because of his health. 

“He never lost his attachment to Kent Island,” Wheelwright said.

Huntington served as the director of the Bowdoin Scientific Station on Kent Island for more than 30 years. 

“He was a very kind man,” said Wheelwright. “He would drop everything if somebody said there was an interesting bird to see in Freeport or Bangor.”