Jerry Hassinger7/7/1936 -
Jerry Hassinger was born in Elizabethville, Pennsylvania on July 7, 1936. He graduated from Elizabethville High School in 1954, from the University of Montana with a Wildlife Technology Degree in 1961, and Penn State University with a Master’s of Science Degree in Zoology in 1963. He honorably served in the U. S. Army during the Korean War.
Jerry’s lifetime love for wildlife and its habitat inspired a long career beginning with seasonal jobs in four (4) National Parks: Yellowstone; Glacier; Everglades; and Denali. This was followed by a fellowship at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago for the purpose of preparing for and guiding a six (6) month mammal collecting expedition in Afghanistan. This three (3) year fellowship (1965 to 1967) culminated in the Fieldiana publication of the Terrestrial Mammals of Afghanistan. Based on this experience, Jerry accepted a two ( 2) year (1968 to 1970) position in Iran to help the Iranian Game and Fish Department develop and implement a fledgling wildlife research program.
His varied experience with both human and natural resources and his familiarity with a variety of ecosystems qualified him to become the PA Bureau of Forestry’s first wildlife biologist, a job he held from 1972 to 1980. Then he transferred to the PA Game Commission where he helped initiate and direct a first wildlife diversity section from 1980 to 2002. Throughout his long career, Jerry used his expert photography, journaling, and communication skills to effectively illustrate the challenges and opportunities in wildlife and habitat management to a broad range of agencies, organizations, and the public, particularly landowners and a growing constituency of “wildlife watchers.”
In his pioneering work in the Bureau of Forestry, he was instrumental in introducing foresters to the science and value of wildlife management and encouraged foresters to promote wildlife diversity by varying vegetation cover types, tree age classes and other habitat components, e.g. den trees. He co-authored the booklet, “Woodlands and Wildlife” and other publications which greatly enhanced the foresters and forest landowners understanding of wildlife management principles and techniques.
As director of the PA Game Commission’s wildlife diversity program, he successfully advocated for the recovery of and management of threatened and endangered species of wildlife such as bald eagles, ospreys, peregrine falcons, river otters, fishers and Indiana bats. During his tenure, the number of bald eagle nests increased from two (2) to over one hundred (100), the first Atlas of Breeding Birds in Pennsylvania was completed, and numerous bat hibernacula were surveyed and gated for the first time.
When Jerry encountered agency barriers to advancing innovative wildlife management, he often reached out to volunteer organizations of scientists and dedicated amateurs to organize and advance statewide initiatives to increase the natural biological diversity of the Commonwealth. He played a key role in organizing the Pennsylvania Biological Survey and served as President multiple times. When Governor Dick Thornburgh signed Pennsylvania’s Wild Resource Conservation Act, Jerry sat next to him. This Act, among other items, provided for a voluntary contribution system to help provide much needed funding to aid in the conservation of certain wild flora and fauna, particularly rare and endangered species.
In “retirement,” Jerry is a member of Pennsylvania Biological Survey’s Mammal Technical Committee, and he chairs the Mycological and Protists Technical Committee. He has a strong passion for educating people about the value of fungi and finding ways to conserve them.
He has been a long-time member of The Wildlife Society, one of the founding members of its Pennsylvania Chapter, and twice served as Chapter President.
As someone who generally avoids serving on boards or commissions, Jerry prefers to use his science and communication skills to quietly affect change through increasing knowledge and awareness.
Jerry and his wife, Diane Marie, of 58 years, his daughters, Lael and Alisa, and two grandchildren, Jazlynn and Luke Pearce, all have a strong love of family and nature. Jerry says that “Diane Marie supported him 100% in his various outdoor endeavors.”
One of Jerry’s colleagues is the late Ned Smith, the renowned PA Game Commission Wildlife Artist and PA Game News Editor. Ned’s personal influence on Jerry is readily apparent in his photography, photography art, and journaling skills, which he uses daily to show the beauty and the intrigue of nature and advocate for natural resource conservation. He and Diane are among the founders and funders of the Ned Smith Center for Nature and Art.
Prepared by Wayne Kober
Co-Chair of the PA Conservation Heritage Project and the PA Forestry Association Forest Heritage Committee