James Reserve Assistant Director Dr. John Laundré was born and raised in the Midwest (Wisconsin) and received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees there. He received his doctorate from Idaho State University in 1979.
Since then, he spent the next 30 years working on large-mammal predator-prey ecology in the western U.S. and northern Mexico. His experience includes working with cougars, wolves, coyotes, bobcats, deer, elk, bison and bighorn sheep. John is the author of a book on the phenomenon of cougars actually moving back into the Great Plains region of the U.S. John currently lives in Southern California where he is assistant director of the James San Jacinto Mountains Natural Reserve of the University of California, Riverside.
JG: First, an open-ended question. Do you have any particular passions/hobbies outside of your position at the James? What are they and what do you enjoy about them?
JL: Hobbies outside of my position include building furniture and writing.
JG: Before you were a scientist, what did your parents want you to be when you grew up and what did they do?
JL: My parents pretty much let it up to us to decide what we wanted to do.
JG: What were your favorite subjects in school?
JL: Biology and math.
JG: What were your favorite books growing up?
JL: Books on nature and mystery books.
JG: How much did you play outside and do you remember where you were playing outside?
JL: I grew up on a farm and so spent most of my time outdoors, working and playing. Would spend a lot of time in the surrounding woods.
JG: Did you collect anything?
JL: Only memories.
JG: If you had some advice for a middle schooler or high schooler, what would you tell them?
JL: Study and learn as much as you can. Knowledge will open doors for you and it beats not knowing things. Also, be persistent. If you know what you want, with persistence and, of course, some luck, you will achieve it.
JG: Life before the James: What was your favorite job before you took the position at the James?
JL: Researching mountain lions. I spent over 20 years working with them. It was great.
JG: Are there people who have inspired you or been your role models?
JL: Role models include Aldo Leopold for his views on wildlife, John Muir for his respect of nature, and my mother and father for their views on life
JG: What is one of your most memorable moments working in the field?
JL: Most memorable is the first mountain lion we were able to capture. It was great to see her up the tree and incredible to think that I was there working with them. I always liked the nature shows and had hoped that one day I would be doing those things. That day reminded me that I was.
JG: Can you share with us points in your career when you were struggling or failing, and what steps did you take to get through them?
JL: I have been fortunate to always have work related to my career. There were times when it looked like I might not, but in the end, something always came up. I have, for the most part, lived a charmed life professionally.
JG: Life at the James: What is your favorite part about being assistant director of the James Reserve?
JL: I like doing the manual things that require building or repairing things, and I like working with the groups that come to use the reserve.
JG: What do you like most and least about living in Idyllwild?
JL: I like the mountain habitat and the small-town atmosphere. The least thing, I suppose, is when I have to go down the Hill for things. Hate the drive down.
JG: What is one of your most memorable moments since you’ve been living here?
JL: My most memorable moment is when I found a photo of a mountain lion on one of the cameras that I have set up all over town to record the wildlife in and around Idyllwild. It is great to see how both people and wildlife are coexisting here in town.
JG: Anything else you want to share with the Town Crier readers?
JL: Not much more. I’ve spent a lot of time working in a lot of different areas and with many different animals. I have enjoyed it all.