It is with great sadness that we relay news of the passing of Dr. Charles Michler, founding director of the Hardwood Tree Improvement and Regeneration Center at Purdue University. Dr. Michler passed away on January 19th, 2016 at his home in West Lafayette, Indiana after an extended illness related to a brain tumor. Dr. Michler was 59.
Dr. Michler started his professional career as a plant physiologist with the USDA Forest Service in 1986. He retired from the Forest Service in January, 2016, shortly before his death. In 1999, Dr. Michler came to Purdue University to be the first director for the newly-created Hardwood Tree Improvement and Regeneration Center, a research and engagement partnership between The USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station and Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources. Thanks to the tireless efforts of Dr. Michler, the partnerships and cooperators that support the HTIRC mission today number over a dozen entities, including state and federal government agencies, industry associations, non-profit organizations, businesses, and individuals. The HTIRC currently has over 30 staff members composed of USDA Forest Service and Purdue University employees participating in research and engagement programs advancing the goals of the Center to improve the regeneration, restoration and management of fine hardwood trees and forests.
Expanding on the hardwood research mission, in 2010 Dr. Michler was appointed Director for the Tropical Hardwood Tree Improvement and Regeneration Center, a partnership between Purdue University, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, USDA Forest Service Northern and Pacific Southwest Research Stations, and 17 partner institutions and organizations in Hawai΄i. The Tropical HTIRC pursues research on culturally and economically important tropical trees, like Acacia koa, exploring genetics, insect and disease resistance, and regeneration and management practices.
Dr. Michler’s impact on the forest genetics community and administrative accomplishments include collaboration on development of first genetically modified tree and first herbicide resistant tree, development of first procedures for somatic embryogenesis in a tree species, development of first genetically engineered conifer tree using somatic embryogenesis, and serving as Associate Editor of Plant Breeding Reviews (2003-15), Journal of Forestry Research (2007-15) and Journal of Forestry (2011-15).
The Fred M. van Eck Forest Foundation for Purdue University, valued at over $21 million at the time of establishment in 2000, originated from a presentation Dr. Michler delivered at a Walnut Council conference attended by Mr. van Eck. The list of lasting impacts from Dr. Michler will include graduate students trained and supported by HTIRC, many through the Fred M. van Eck scholarships. These students will make contributions to science, knowledge, and society for decades to come.
Memorial donations may be made to Purdue Foundation, Agriculture Development, Purdue University, 715 West State Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907. Include “Michler Graduate Endowment” on the memo line of checks. A website for the Charles Michler Endowment for Outstanding Graduate Student Researcher in Forest Biology has been created if you would like to donate online. Click here