Ian McTaggart Cowan (1910–2010) is often referred to as the “father of Canadian ecology.” From his formative years roaming the mountains around Vancouver collecting museum specimens of mammals and birds to his last years as a major contributor to the voluminous and authoritative Birds of British Columbia (which the Royal BC Museum called "one of the biggest publishing events in Canadian history") Cowan’s life provides a unique perspective on a century of environmental change—with a critical message for the future.
The Cowan Collection at the University of Victoria Special Collections includes Cowan’s field journals, photographs, CBC footage and correspondence from his 75-year long multi-faceted career, alternating between high-profile campaigns, such as ending the Canadian bounty system, and cutting-edge field research into species and ecosystems from the Arctic to Haida Gwaii. It also includes journal from his mentors like Kenneth Racey and students like Bristol Foster. The University of Victoria Libraries will host a digital collection of the handwritten McTaggart Cowan field journals, with selected journals also transcribed. The Ian McTaggart Cowan field journals were the primary source used to create the official biography, The Real Thing: The Natural History of Ian McTaggart Cowan.