Pat Brown was raised with her three younger brothers on a dairy farm near the small mining/farming town of Marissa in Southern Illinois. Her husband Ron was from the larger community of Belleville, about 30 miles away. Ron proposed to Pat on their second date and they were married a year later on the winter solstice. Their son Paul was born 2 1/2 years after their wedding. While they were raising their son, Pat spent more than 15 years working as a machine operator at CPI Corporation in St. Louis where she edited film, printed, and processed professional portraits.
Pat had always been an outstanding scholar so, once their son Paul was grown, Pat and Ron decided to go back to school. Pat graduated Magna-Cum-Laude with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Zoology at Southern Illinois University Carbondale in May of 1999. While attending SIU, Pat worked summers doing field research. As a student worker for the National Science Foundation she assisted graduate students setting up and monitoring hundreds of small mammal traps in different forest age classes in the Shawnee National Forest. She also conducted timed mouse mate selection experiments, studied genetic mouse relationships, and conducted a research project on odor preferences of mice. As a result of this project Pat co-authored an article published in Journal of Chemical Ecology.
Although the small mammal research was interesting, Pat’s lifelong interest had always been birds. She jumped at the opportunity to become a volunteer research assistant working with Jeff Hoover and the Illinois Natural History Survey to locate, monitor, conduct vegetation analysis, and record data on songbird nests in Cache River Wetlands. Equally important, Pat and Ron discovered the Shawnee Audubon chapter of the Illinois Audubon Society. Although struggling with a very serious form of cancer, Pat remained active. Working from 1995 through 1999 as a volunteer birding chairperson provided incredible and life changing opportunities. Pat learned to write newsletter articles, organize and lead birding outings as well as conduct informal interpretation about the lives, locations, and habitats of shorebirds, raptors, and neotropical migratory songbirds. The experiences gained in the summer they spent at War Bluff as volunteer sanctuary stewards led directly after graduation to a contract with the Audubon Society of New Hampshire to conduct point count surveys of high elevation and forest bird communities in the White Mountain National Forest. That also led to an opportunity to work as site educators with HawkWatch International on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park.
Pat and Ron knew that relocating to the Grand Canyon was the best decision they made. Although working for Grand Canyon National Park has always been very competitive, Pat’s knowledge and abilities encouraged the Division of Interpretation to offer both of them positions as Interpretive Park Rangers. As front line interpreters both Pat and Ron developed the skills necessary to provide formal interpretive programs to hundreds of Grand Canyon visitors each day. These professionally researched programs convey the major significant interpretive themes of Grand Canyon National Park’s natural, cultural, and historic resources including geology, ecology, wildlife, life zones, migration routes, human history, natural quiet, fossils, exotic species, and endangered species like the California condor.
Ron and Pat Brown with Jean Graber
Grand Canyon is primarily a geology park but Pat’s interest was always the birds of the area and especially the California condor. The opportunity to work closely with the multi-agency California condor recovery team became the defining focus of the rest of her life and career. She was known as the park’s resident condor expert and served as the interpretive division’s liaison with the condor team.
Pat lost her battle with cancer on October 25th 2014 at home in her favorite seat, watching her birds. She remained active and involved with birds and wildlife to the end. Pat is survived by her husband Ron and is very much missed by him and everyone who knew her at Grand Canyon National Park.