Water shapes the desert landscape. This seems strange until you’ve stood in a New Mexico downpour, watching the impact of big raindrops on boulders and cliffs and getting out of the way as muddy floodwaters rage through the nearest arroyo.
Luna Leopold probably recognized the power and importance of water early on, during his childhood in Albquerque, New Mexico, early in the 20th century. As a meteorologist, engineer, and geologist, he went on to pioneer the scientific study of water’s effects on landscapes everywhere and became a champion of the movement to protect rivers and other bodies of water.
He looked more like a cowboy than did the advertising world’s Marlboro Men, who were popular back then. However, it was Leopold’s scientific training and and personal energy that propelled him to the top hydrologist post at the United States Geological Survey.
He held that influential position for two decades, revolutionizing the detailed study of surface water and speeding up the transmission of reliable data to researchers others those who need it to make informed decisions on water management.
Then he entered the academic world, where for the rest of his long life he worked hard to get the message out to students, the public, legislators, and fellow scientists that water resources are vitally important and must be managed ethically as well as efficiently.
When writing about a contemporary geoscientist who isn’t a household name like his fellow New Mexican Harrison Schmitt, it is best to let others tell the detailed story.
Here are some excellent resources where you can learn more about Dr. Aldo B. Leopold.
- Luna Leopold (1915-2006). The Aldo Leopold Foundation
- Luna B. Leopold. International Association of Geomorphologists
- The Saga of the Fireplace (PDF). Luna Leopold
- The Virtual Luna Leopold Project. University of California Berkeley
- “Former USGS Chief Hydrologist Luna B. Leopold left a lasting legacy on the field of hydrology.” US Geological Survey
- Memorial to Luna B. Leopold (PDF). Claudio Vita-Finzi