Dispatch from the TGI Consortium: Fred: A Goose on a Mission

Photo collage of 2023 TGI Fellows.

Meet the goose on the move in St. Louis whose familiar name sparks ecological discoveries through its unique connection to the Saint Louis University community.

by Bob Grant, Executive Director of Communications, Research

It’s not every day that you ride your bicycle up to Saint Louis University President Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D. and ask if it would be OK to name woodland creatures after him. That kind of incident has a much higher probability of happening, though, if you’re SLU biologist Stephen Blake, Ph.D. And that’s exactly what Blake did one warm spring day as he was commuting to his office on SLU’s midtown campus and happened to spot Pestello. 

“The first time I stopped him and introduced myself, he was walking along in a suit and tie and a briefcase,” Blake recalled. “And here I am sweaty and unshaven. I remember saying, ‘Hi Fred. I think you are my boss’s boss’s boss’s boss.’”

After explaining that he was an assistant professor in SLU’s Biology Department, Blake said that Pestello’s eyes softened and the two stood on the west side of Grand Boulevard and chatted. After some small talk about bikes, Blake took the opportunity to describe the Forest Park Living Lab (FPLL), an urban ecology collaboration between nonprofit conservancy Forest Park Forever, The National Great Rivers Research and Education Center, Saint Louis University, the Saint Louis Zoo, Washington University in St. Louis, and the World Bird Sanctuary. The group seeks to open a window into urban wildlife and inform conservation efforts by tracking animals as they use habitats in and around St. Louis. 

Because there is a significant outreach component to the FPLL — which Blake co-leads with Anthony Dell, Ph.D., from the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center and Sharon L. Deem, DVM, Ph.D., from the Saint Louis Zoo — Blake wanted to pique Pestello’s interest in the effort and increase its profile in a unique way.

“How can we draw institutional interest in this project?” Blake, who is also an associate at the Taylor Geospatial Institute, asked. “Who better than the head man?”