The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Jon Shepard Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Mike Dicianna.

January 23, 2015


“A Life Spent in Pursuit of Butterflies”  January 23, 2015  Location: Valley Library, Oregon State University.  Watch Video | Download Transcript (PDF)

In the interview, Shepard describes his colorful upbringing, including his father's pursuits in show business and the many different locations in which he lived while growing up. He then discusses the family's settlement in Kennewick, Washington, the roots of his life-long interest in butterflies, and his move to Yakima, Washington to complete high school.

A primary focus of the session is Shepard's undergraduate experience as a student at Oregon State College/Oregon State University. In this, he comments on his decision to attend OSC, his contacts with the school's entomologists, his memories of OSC's transition to OSU, and his living arrangements while in Corvallis. He likewise notes the different jobs that he held while a student, his social life, and his participation in the Honors Program, including the honors thesis that he wrote on a genus of blue butterflies and its eventual publication in a scientific journal.

From there, Shepard outlines his years as graduate student at Washington State University, his use of early computers, his strong mathematical capabilities, and his stints as a doctoral candidate at Stanford and UC-Berkeley.

The final portion of the interview is largely devoted to the Shepards' lives in Canada, where they lived from the early 1970s to 2014. In looking back on this time, Shepard recalls his and his wife's move to Nelson, British Columbia, and reflects on the city's status as a haven for American expatriates. He then shares some of the highlights of his professional career in lepidoptery, including his collaboration on a book, The Butterflies of British Columbia, and the strong tradition of entomological research in British Columbia.

Shepard likewise provides his thoughts on the lepidoptera community in North America, his own change in interests toward moths, the specifics of butterfly migration patterns, the strength of the Oregon State Arthropod Collection, and the Shepards' return to Corvallis. The interview concludes with a discussion of collecting and preserving insect specimens, the important role that insect collections play in documenting biogeography, the activities of Shepard's wife Sigrid, and changes that Shepard has observed in Corvallis and at OSU.