Dr. Jane Claire Dirks-Edmunds devoted 50 years of her life to studying the Douglas fir trees along Oregon’s coastline; hers is the most comprehensive ecological study in the Northwest. Dirks-Edmunds was first introduced to the forest of Saddleback Mountain in 1933 during her sophomore year at Linfield College. Her biology professor and academic advisor, Dr. James A. Macnab, was conducting a study of the Saddleback forest community, and Dirks-Edmunds assisted him with the project for three-and-a-half years before adopting the research site for her own.
The youngest of 10 children, Dirks-Edmunds was born in the Arkansas Ozarks on June 9, 1912. Her family moved around the Midwest several times but eventually settled in Roseburg, Oregon. In the prologue of her book Not Just Trees: The Legacy of a Douglas-fir Forest, she notes an early love of the Northwest’s forests; this admiration carried her through her academic years. Dirks-Edmunds attended Linfield College from 1932-1937, where she received her B.S. in Biology. After graduating from Linfield, Dirks-Edmunds immediately left for the University of Illinois, where she was a graduate teaching assistant in Zoology. In 1941, she earned her Ph.D. Her thesis, “A Comparison of Biotic Communities of the Cedar-Hemlock and Oak-Hickory Associations,” compared her beloved forest on Saddleback Mountain to that of one in Illinois.
After earning her Ph.D., Dirks-Edmunds returned to Linfield College as an instructor of Biology and assistant to the registrar. She was the first woman with a Ph.D. hired by the institution. In 1944, she took a brief leave of absence from Linfield and spent three semesters at Whitworth College, serving as the head of the Biology department. While there, she married her husband, Milton Ray Edmunds. She returned to Linfield in 1946 and taught a diverse course load until her retirement in 1974.
Following the death of her husband in 1983, Dirks-Edmunds revisited her Saddleback Mountain research and began to write Not Just Trees. She visited her old research site on the mountain for the first time in 10 years and found her forest entirely clear-cut, her life’s project ruined. Not Just Trees was published in 1999 and is an important text for the Northwest because it allows a glimpse into an ecological community of Saddleback that was forever destroyed. Dr. Dirks-Edmunds died on December 29, 2003.
This collection celebrates the life and work of Dr. Jane Claire Dirks-Edmunds, a pioneer of the ecology movement renowned for her work on the Saddleback Mountain forest. Included in the collection are documents, photographs, maps, and other items from Dr. Dirks-Edmunds's life.
For additional historical background and collection inventory, please see the Guide to the Dr. Jane Claire Dirks-Edmunds Collection 1912-2000.