Curator and Professor of Biology

University of Guam (UOG) professor, Dr. Lynn Raulerson (1937-2012), was a driving force in documenting the flora of Guam and worked as a biology professor for 40 years. Since 1972 she taught classes, served on committees, and pursued research interests around identification of local biota. She administered the UOG Herbarium and significantly expanded the collection of specimens and piublications from 1981 to 2012. Raulerson mentored students to become good scientists and worked with the community to identify and preserve local flora. She authored and co-authored numerous books and articles on the plant wildlife of Guam and Micronesia.

Early Life

Claire Lynn Raulerson was born in 1937 to Mr. and Mrs. Charles Raulerson in Arcadia, Florida.  She spent her early years exploring the beaches and waterways of south Florida and this had a lifelong impact on young Lynn. From her youngest days, she was interested in biology, especially the biology of plants. Stories from her earliest memories related to the woods on the island where she grew up and to saving the lives of numerous green sea turtles by hatching them under her bed.

Raulerson began school during World War II and due to transfers with her father’s military postings she changed schools often. Being exceptionally intelligent and large for her age, she soon found herself two years ahead of most six-year-olds in school. She graduated from high school in Atlanta, Georgia, but because she was barely sixteen years old, her parents sent her to a junior college rather than a large university.  She received an AA from Stevens College in Columbia, Missouri, and a BA and MS from Emory University in Georgia. She then taught biology for ten years at Samford College in Birmingham, Alabama, before getting her PhD in Biology with an emphasis in Ecology from the University of Georgia.

Soon after she received her doctorate, Raulerson embarked on a journey that became her life’s work. She accepted a position at University of Guam in 1972 to teach biology and do research. For forty years, Dr. Raulerson was a supporter of academic excellence at UOG. She became known for teaching challenging courses, but also for her willingness to help students succeed. She offered courses that pushed students to do their best and excel beyond learning the basic content of her classes.  No one ever said that her classes were easy, but many have said that her classes prepared them to compete and succeed in various professions and graduate studies.

Contributions

Raulerson always thought of herself as a teacher first and foremost, but her contributions to the field of biology were unique and significant, and she was highly respected in her field.  She worked with local and national researchers from many institutions including the Smithsonian Institution, in identifying and describing plant specimens indigenous to Guam and the other Mariana Islands.  She wrote comprehensive accounts of ferns, orchids and various trees and shrubs found in the Mariana Islands.

In 1981, she became the curator of the University of Guam Herbarium, the largest herbarium in the oceanic islands of the western Pacific–and the only herbarium in Micronesia.  She spent much of her out-of-class time collecting, organizing and labeling specimens to enlarge the collection. Her research interests included the systematics of Micronesian plants, especially those of Guam and the other Mariana islands.

During her tenure, the collections of various plants in the herbarium  increased from 7,500 specimens to nearly 53,000 today and by 10,000 specimens alone in the last ten years.  Many of the species in the herbarium are found only in Micronesia and provide an important biological record of biodiversity in the region.  Raulerson and her staff also conducted systematic research and published technical papers and peer-reviewed publications for the wider scientific community, as well as provided expertise in botany for local needs, such as environmental impact assessments and conservation and management projects.

In the last days of her life Raulerson, the woman who had challenged many, came face to face with a challenge she could not overcome: cancer. With strength and integrity she fought a courageous battle, but in the end, her legacy is what remains. Her publications on the flora of Guam and Micronesia are still considered “the Bible” by botanists and biologists in the area; her UOG herbarium collection is extremely valuable. She established and funded a foundation to give financial assistance to graduate students pursuing biology; and her many successful students have sent tributes and contributions to her memory.

Selected Publications:

Odor, D. Louise, Lynn Raulerson and Eugene Bass. “Hairy Hair Cell Descriptions.”  Bioscience, vol. 43, no. 9, 1993 DOI: 10.2307/1312143.

Raulerson, L. 2006. Checklist of Plants of the Mariana Islands. University of Guam Herbarium Contribution 37: 1-69.

Raulerson, L. 2005. “A brief natural history of Guam’s geological formation,” in L. D. Carter, W. L. Wuerch, R. R. Carter (eds.) Guam History: Perspectives. Vol. 2. University of Guam Press, pp. 1-19.

Raulerson, L. and Rinehart, A. 1992. Ferns and Orchids of the Northern Mariana Islands. Self published. 138 pages.

Raulerson, L. and Rinehart, A. 1991. Trees and Shrubs of the Northern Mariana Islands. Coastal Resource Management, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. 120 pages.

Rinehart A. F., L. Raulerson. 2005. “Orchids of Palau.” University of Guam Herbarium Contribution 36: 1-47.

By Mary Jane Miller, EdD, Assistant Professor
University of Guam School of Education