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M. A. CARRIKER, JR. (1879-1965)


Most American museum collectors went to South America for a few years and then returned home to pursue more conventional livelihoods. Meb Carriker went to Colombia in 1911 and stayed there for most of the rest of his life. He had already spent time in Costa Rica between 1902 and 1907 (publishing An Annotated List of Birds of Costa Rica in 1909) and in Venezuela during 1909 and 1911.  But Colombia had an attraction the other locales lacked: Carme, the young daughter of an American couple involved in the coffee business.  Meb and Carme were married in 1912, and she accompanied him on three major collecting expeditions. Women in camp were an unusual sight at the time, and no wonder: “After 13 hours in the saddle the party reached Don Diego after dark, tired, hungry, and covered with the bites of black flies, sand flies, mosquitos and ticks, the latter still clinging to their hot, perspiring skin” (Carriker 2001, 111). Remarkably, Carme later accompanied her husband on a seven-month expedition into the Andes, this time with their seventeen-month-old son and pregnant besides.  Their second child was born only two months after the end of the journey. In 1927 the Carrikers moved to New Jersey in order to educate their five children. Sadly, the marriage did not survive the move, in part because Meb spent six months of the year collecting in South America on behalf of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, leading seven expeditions to Peru and Bolivia between 1929 and 1938. After his divorce, in 1940, he returned to Colombia, collecting for various institutions right up to the time of his death, in 1965. He collected over 75,000 specimens of birds, and he has been much admired by subsequent generations of field workers (particularly Ted Parker) for his uncanny ability to find and collect species previously overlooked (Stap 1990).