Clear Waters, New York Water Environment Association, Inc., Fall 2004, Vol. 34 No. 3
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Emmeline Moore

Emmeline Moore: Pioneer Biologist and Fisheries Scientist

by Robert D. Hennigan

I first became aware of Emmeline Moore in the 1950s when I was in charge of conducting a number of water pollution control water classification surveys in the central New York area. This came about due to our dependence on and use of the surveys she conducted in the 1920s and 30s. These surveys showed the stream identification system used, which we followed. They identified the main sources of pollution and the physical, chemical, and biological condition of the waters at the time of the surveys. These documents were invaluable to us and greatly simplified our assignment. The respect that I developed for Emmeline Moore in those years led me to suggest to the association Awards Committee that they create an award in her name, and they are in the process of doing so.

Emmeline Moore was born in Batavia, New York, in 1877. She attended Geneseo Normal School (now SUNY Geneseo), graduating in 1895. She taught at the normal school and then went to the Cape Colony in South Africa as a substitute teacher of botany at Huguenot College. Upon her return to the United States, she enrolled at Cornell University and earned a B.A. in 1905, followed by an M.A. at Wellesley College in 1906. She taught botany and later became a professor of botany at Vassar College. She was also a summer investigator for the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries. This was followed by further study at Cornell, where she received her Ph.D. in 1916 in biology. A news item in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle carried the following news item:

Penn Yan, July 21, 1915 - Miss Emmeline Moore of Churchville, N.Y., Ph.D. (student) Cornell University and an instructor in botany at Vassar College, passed through this village yesterday afternoon in an automobile en route to Lakes Waneta and Lamoka to spend some time in the investigation of water plant and weed life for which these lakes offer unusual opportunity. Miss Moore fishes with a long handled rake or grappling device from a flat bottomed boat, and usually locates her prey at a depth of fifteen feet or less. (Comment: the reporter appeared to be slightly confused over fish or plants.)

Based on this news story I would presume that she was working at Cornell's New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York, and traveled from there to Penn Yan. After receiving her Ph.D., Moore worked on a U.S. Bureau of Fisheries project on the primary food relations of fish from 1917 to 1919. This led into her primary career work as a research fisheries scientist. She became an honorary fellow at the University of Wisconsin in 1919.

In 1920 she became the first woman biologist for the New York State Department of Conservation. She undertook a fish productivity study delineating the biological, chemical, and physical characteristics of Lake George. This led to the decision by the legislature that similar surveys should be made covering the entire state. She then directed the biological survey of the state's surface waters and, from 1926 to 1939, produced 17 separate reports covering each major watershed in the state. Her professional reputation was recognized when she was elected as the first woman president of the American Fisheries Society for 1927-28. Forty years would pass before another woman was elected to that office.

The series of watershed reports Moore created were described as the most comprehensive scientific examination of any state's water resources ever conducted. These reports proved to be invaluable when the Water Pollution Control Board carried out the stream classification surveys and reports from 1950 to 1965 under the water pollution control law of 1949.

Moore became the director of the State Biological Survey in 1932 under the office of the New York State Geological Survey in the State Education Department. She was a fisheries research scientist and her work took her to Europe, Alaska, the Canadian Northwest, Africa, and many parts of the country. In 1939 she received an honorary doctor of science from Hobart College in Geneva. Other recognition included prizes from the Boston Society of Natural History and the American Fisheries Society. She retired from state service in 1944.

Emmeline Moore was truly one of the outstanding women pioneers of New York State as a biologist and ecologist, and she was a forerunner of today's environmentalists. She died in 1968 at the age of 91.


Hortense Hayword Papers,

Langenheim, Jean. Early History and Progress of Women Ecologists. 1996.

Cornell University Library

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