To fully understand Malcolm “Mac” Hunter’s story, you need to know about the Richmond firehouse.
The year was 1974. That spring, Hunter earned his bachelor’s in wildlife science from the University of Maine, and a few months later, he was getting settled in at the University of Oxford where he would eventually earn a Ph.D. in zoology as a Rhodes Scholar. He had grand plans of becoming an international wildlife biologist, trotting the globe, spending a few years in Brazil, maybe a few years in Africa. He figured he’d come back to Maine eventually, when he was ready to settle down.
But he had some unfinished work to do back in his home state of Maine. Richmond, to be exact. There, he was part of a conservation project involving Merrymeeting Bay, and he flew back to attend a meeting where some critical decisions would be made.
There were 25 people in the firehouse that night.
Hunter knew almost every one of them.
Later that evening, as he drove back to his family home in Damariscotta, he had an epiphany.
“I realized I had a connectedness to Maine I would never achieve if I spent two years in Brazil, two years in East Africa, et cetera,” Hunter recalled. “That night, I changed my plan. I decided I would come back to Maine as soon as I finished at Oxford.”
He returned in 1978 and spent five years working as an assistant research professor at UMaine, scraping together just enough money to keep peanut butter on the table, biding his time until he could become a tenure-track professor.
Three decades later, Hunter is UMaine’s Libra Professor of Conservation Biology. In 1996, he was named the University of Maine Distinguished Professor. He has written the definitive textbooks on both conservation biology, and wildlife and forestry management, among others. In short, he is a giant in his field.
“The current global movement of conservation biology remains incomplete without Mac,” says Pralad Yonzon, the chair of the Resources Himalaya conservation group who earned his Ph.D. from UMaine. “He is a household name in conservation, even in India and Nepal. He believes that the global community requires regional conservation leaders and country-specific pathfinders to address biodiversity conservation.”