In Memoriam: G. Carlton Ray – Founding Member of The Bahamas National Trust
August 15, 1928 – December 14, 2023
The Bahamas National Trust (BNT) mourns the passing of Dr. G. Carlton Ray – the last living founding member of The Bahamas National Trust. As the leader of the Exuma Cays Expedition, he along with other notable members of that initiative were responsible for the creation of the Exuma Cays Land & Sea Park: the first land and sea park in the world and The Bahamas’ very first national park.
Dr. Ray spent the latter part of his five-decade career as Research Faculty at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. He remained an active and interested member of the BNT, attending the organisation’s 60th Anniversary celebrations and speaking of its inception at the first Bahamas Natural History Conference.
Dr. Ray recognized the central roles of natural history, field experience, and interdisciplinary approaches for conservation and understanding species’ relationships to ecosystem function. He worked widely in polar, temperate, and tropical environments on those themes.
In the mid 1960s, he initiated scuba diving in Antarctica for research on polar marine mammals; and worked on the thermoregulation and acoustics of marine mammals in Antarctica and the Arctic. He and his colleagues at that time described the underwater sounds of seals and walruses, including the first demonstration of “song” in marine mammals. An emphasis on natural history allowed him to discover about a dozen new species. During the past three decades, he conducted interdisciplinary studies on the controls and feedbacks of Arctic marine mammals in their ecosystems, particularly relating to aspects of climate change, sea-ice dynamics, and effects on indigenous hunters.
Dr. Ray helped initiate the Society for Marine Mammalogy; chaired the Marine Steering Committee of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources; and helped initiate UNESCO’s “Man and the Biosphere Programme,” as well as the IUBS/SCOPE/UNESCO “Diversitas Programme.” He also led a team of scientists in testimony, leading to the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972.
Most recently, Carlton and his wife and colleague Jerry McCormick-Ray were revising the textbook Coastal-Marine Conservation: Science and Policy (Ray and McCormick-Ray, Wiley-Blackwell 2004). This emphasis on marine conservation education had become his highest priority.
Dr. Ray considered the creation of The Bahamas National Trust and the Exuma Cays Land & Sea Park one of his outstanding conservation achievements – and so do we. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and widow, Gerry. We will miss him.