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William A. Niering papers

Identifier: PP-B04

Scope and Contents

This collection contains case studies, clippings, conference materials, correspondence, notes, photographs, presentations, publications, reports, and research documenting the life and work of William A. Niering, ecologist, botany professor, and director of the Connecticut College Arboretum.

The bulk of the collection pertains to Niering’s research and works in ecology. Niering was active in his field. He researched and published on a range of topics including vegetation management in right-of-ways, which he developed with Frank Egler; the establishment of the Saguaro cactus and vegetation recovery rates after grazing in desert climates; and the important role that inland and coastal wetlands play in the environment. Niering also consulted on projects for non-profit organizations, corporate, and government agencies. Several important campaigns include his work to preserve the Tannersville Cranberry Bog in Pennsylvania, one of the Nature Conservancy’s first preserves in that state; the Babcock Property in Greenwich, and the McLean Game Refuge. A prolific writer, Niering spoke at many conferences regarding his research interests. Much of his research and work is contained in Series II. Conferences, Series IV. Research and Committee Work, and Series V. Wetland Case Studies.

Niering had an extensive correspondence that concerned his research, his duties as a professor of botany, his work as the director of the Arboretum, and his work as a consultant on a variety of projects. Most of his correspondence was filed chronologically; although, some correspondence was filed by correspondent. While most correspondence can be found in Series III. Correspondence, there is correspondence throughout the collection.

A small amount of personal material document the awards and publicity Niering received in his lifetime can be found in Series I. Biographical Materials. Photographs can be found throughout the collection and are indicated in folder titles.

Materials in this collection have been looked through and arranged by donors and several processors of the collection. The current order maintains the order that was developed but may not reflect William Niering’s original arrangement.


  • 1942-2000


Biographical / Historical

William "Bill" Albert Niering was a noted ecologist, a professor of Botany at Connecticut College, and Director of the Connecticut College Arboretum. Niering was born in Scotrun, Pennsylvania to George and Emma Everitt Niering. He attended Pennsylvania State University where he received his undergraduate degree in Biology in 1948 and his master's degree in Botany in 1950. His education was interrupted by World War II, when he served in the army from 1942 to 1945; his active service took place in the South Pacific and he attained the rank of Staff Sergeant. He received his Ph.D. in plant ecology from Rutgers University in 1952.. He married Catherine Sublett Niering in 1955 and had a son, William S. Niering.

Niering joined the Connecticut College Botany Department in the fall of 1952. At Connecticut College, he was a popular teacher. He established long-term vegetation research projects in the College Arboretum, providing opportunities for students to conduct field work and analyze the change in the natural landscape over time. Niering also served as the director of the Connecticut College Arboretum from 1965 to 1988. In 1988, he became the Research Director for the Arboretum which he served for eleven years. Niering was an early proponent of sustainability on campus, helping to institute the first campus-wide recycling program. He founded the Environmental Model Committee in the 1970s, a group of staff, students and faculty that help organize and encourage sustainability efforts at Connecticut College. He helped start the Center for Conservation Biology and Environmental Studies, now named the Goodwin-Niering Center for the Environment. He negotiated the College’s first carbon sequestration program in Costa Rica in 1999.

His research spanned a variety of ecosystems, from Connecticut's shores and inlands to the islands of the South Pacific to the flora of the Southwest. He was an internationally recognized expert on the ecology of wetlands and tidal marshes. His work was instrumental in passing the Connecticut Tidal Wetlands Act (1969) which prevented the loss of wetlands to dredge and fill activities. He also served as a consultant on ecological restoration efforts on wetlands in Connecticut and Long Island. From 1974 to 1977, Niering was a member of the North Atlantic Regional Advisory Committee. He contributed to policy statements on urban parks as well as contributed to the planning process of the National Park Service. His scientific contributions spanned over many projects throughout his duration on the Regional Advisory Committee. One study, in particular, focused on the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. In 1978 Congress designated the Pine Barrens as the Pinelands National Preserve; this would not have been possible without the scientific knowledge of William Niering.

Niering contributed to his profession in many ways. He served as the Associate Director for the Environmental BiologyProgram at the National Science Foundation from 1958 to 1967. He served as secretary of the Ecological Society from 1968 to 1971. He edited the Bulletin for the society from 1986 to 1971 and from 1972 to 1974. He became the editor of the scientific journal Restoration Ecology from its beginning in 1993 until his death. He helped to elevate it to a prominent journal in the field. As a preservationist, Niering was very active. He was one of the founders of the Connecticut chapter of the Nature Conservancy in 1956. He served as the chair of the Conservancy’s Connecticut Natural Area committee from 1956 to 1958 and was the chair of the state chapter in 1960. He initiated the 1956 purchase of the Tannersville Cranberry bog in Pennsylvania, which was one of the Nature Conservancy’s first preserves in Pennsylvania. Niering helped negotiate the first 198 acres of the Beckley Bog in Norfolk Connecticut. His research on coastal wetlands helped to create legislation to preserve Connecticut coastlines and he remained active as a consultant on a variety of projects.

William Niering died on August 30, 1999, shortly after addressing the incoming class of 2003. A nature preserve at Harkness Memorial Park was named in his honor to commemorate his life and work.


10 Linear Feet (20 boxes )

Language of Materials



This collection contains case studies, clippings, conference materials, correspondence, notes, photographs, presentations, publications, reports, and research documenting the life and work of ecologist William A. Niering.


This is collection is arranged into five series: Series I Biographical materials, Series II Conferences, Series III Correspondence, Series IV Research and committee work, Series V Wetland Case Studies. Materials Are primarily arranged by date except for Series I which is arranged alphabetically.

Separated Materials

7 folders related to the Arboretum were seperated from the collection an added to the Arboretum records on 2018-12-05. These folders were:Arboretum Correspondence, Arboretum Events, Arboretum director's reports, Arboretum Newsletter, Arboretum Papers, THe Connecticut Arboretum papers (1957), THaes Science Center(1969).

Separated Materials

2 folders were seperated and placed with the botany department papers on 2018-12-06. These folders were: Biology Department, Environmental Studies 110: Human Ecology (Ecology and Men)

  • 1 folder of recommendations made by Niering about students and colleagues and 1 folder of student evaluations of Niering's teaching.
Guide to the William A. Niering Papers
Rose Oliveira
September 2018
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Linda Lear Center for Special Collections and Archives Repository

Connecticut College
270 Mohegan Ave
New London CT 06320 United States