Conservation Trailblazer: Howard P. Boyd

by Michele S. Byers, executive director, New Jersey Conservation Foundation 

By the time Howard P. Boyd graduated from high school in 1932, he had earned every possible Boy Scout nature merit badge. Those two loves – scouting and nature – defined his life.

Howard passed away in December at the age of 97, and his huge legacy will live on through the definitive books he penned on New Jersey Pine Barrens ecology, the thousands of scouts and naturalists whose lives he touched, and an enriched body of science about Pine Barrens insects.

Howard grew up in the Boston area and cultivated his love of nature at an early age, spending his time on the area’s suburban farms. He graduated from Boston University in 1938 with a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences with an emphasis in botany. It would be 39 years – and a lifetime of hands-on experience – before he earned his master’s in entomology from the University of Delaware.

Not long after graduating from Boston University, he went to work for the Boy Scouts of America in the Philadelphia area. It was here that he discovered the Pine Barrens, visiting often to collect insects. He and his wife of over 70 years, the late Doris Boyd, settled in the Pine Barrens community of Tabernacle in Burlington County.

After 31 years with the Scouts, Howard retired in 1969 and turned his attention to the Pine Barrens. He embarked on what grew to become a second career: an instructor, lecturer and field leader on Pine Barrens ecology for students and aspiring naturalists. He was considered one of the country’s leading experts on predatory tiger beetles, and he studied the numerous rare and exciting species that inhabit the Pine Barrens. Howard was a member of the American Entomological Society for 77 years, and edited its Entomological News publication for almost 30 years.

Howard spent decades exploring the sandy trails of the Pine Barrens and studying insects and other unique flora and fauna. He cataloged the region’s distinctive natural features and demonstrated the complex interdependence of ecological systems. His scientific work helped to lay the factual foundation for the preservation of the million-acre Pineland National Reserve. Louis Cantafio, Ph.D., Senior Land Steward with New Jersey Conservation Foundation, states it plainly: “If it weren’t for Howard, there would be no Pine Barrens.”

In 1991, he collected his life’s work into A Field Guide to the Barrens of New Jersey. Now in its sixth printing, the book is 423 illustrated pages of just about everything that lives in the Pine Barrens, from algae to eagles. Twenty years later, his book is still widely regarded as the definitive field guide to the Pine Barrens.

Howard wrote four books, all on the Pine Barrens, including A Pine Barrens Odyssey: A Naturalist’s Year in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey (1997), Wildflowers of the Pine Barrens of New Jersey (2001). The last, The Ecological Pine Barrens (2008), examines the science behind ecosystem fragmentation and the threats that still face the region today.

Howard also served as charter member and trustee of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance (PPA), board member and vice president of the New Jersey Audubon Society (NJAS), and helped to establish the Rancocas Nature Center.

New Jersey Conservation Foundation gave Howard his own key to the Franklin Parker Preserve, a 9,400-acre former cranberry farm in Burlington County. It was fortuitous, since he knew more about the land than anyone else. At the young age of 93, Howard convinced the American Entomological Society to embark on a long-term study of Pine Barrens insects at the Franklin Parker Preserve, the first in-depth study in over a century. Howard continued his own field work through 2010, and his study team has discovered dozens of insect species never before known to exist in the New Jersey Pine Barrens.

A new species of crane fly, previously unknown to science and endemic to our Pine Barrens’ Atlantic white cedar swamps, has been discovered! This crane fly will officially be named in honor of Howard Boyd. Some people might not be excited at the prospect of having a crane fly named after them. But Howard was thrilled and humbled to learn of this tribute to a lifetime filled with discovery and reverence for nature.

If you’d like more information about conserving New Jersey’s precious land and natural resources, please visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s website at or contact me at

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