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David M. Mark, 74, renowned geography professor, extraordinary bird watcher

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David M. Mark

Oct. 7, 1947 – Sept. 24, 2022

There are approximately 10,000 species of birds in the world, and David M. Mark, a world-renowned professor of geography at the University at Buffalo, made it his goal to see at least half of them.

He traveled far and wide on his quest. His best bird, according to a list he compiled, was a Spoon-billed Sandpiper, which he spotted in 1978 on Iona Island off British Columbia. One of his runners-up was the rare Noisy Scrubbird, which he saw in 1988 in Western Australia.

He wrote that his best day of bird watching was April 24, 1983, on High Island, Texas, a prime stopover for migrating waterbirds near Galveston, when he identified 166 different species. His best year? That was 2002, when he logged 1,250 species in the U.S., Canada, Japan, Peru, Europe and Australia.

His favorite, he said, was the hoopoe, the national bird of Israel, which ranges across southern Europe, Africa and Asia and is notable for its zebra-striped wings and the colorful crest of feathers on its head.

The last new bird Dr. Mark spotted, his 3,636th species, was a pygmy cormorant, which he saw last May in Istanbul, Turkey. He died Sept. 24 in Buffalo General Medical Center following a stroke. He was 74.

David Michael Mark was born in New Westminster, British Columbia, near Vancouver. He earned a bachelor's degree from Simon Fraser University in Vancouver in 1970, completed his master's degree in geography at the University of British Columbia in 1974 and returned to Simon Fraser for his doctorate.

Dr. Mark was an assistant professor of geography at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ont., from 1978 to 1981, then joined the UB faculty in 1981.

He became an associate professor in 1983 and a full professor in 1987. He was named a SUNY Distinguished Professor in 2007 and continued his research after he became an emeritus professor in 2015.

Prominent internationally in the field of geographic information science, which his computer work helped to develop in the 1980s, he was director of the UB site of the National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis from 1995 to 2013.

He was co-founder, with Andrew U. Frank, of a discipline called ethnophysiography, which studies how language and culture influence people's perceptions of the landscape around them. Together they organized a NATO-financed conference, "Cognitive and Linguistic Aspects of Geographic Space," in Spain in 1990.

He was the author or co-author of more than 230 publications and was lead investigator on several large grants.

He received numerous awards, including Researcher of the Year in 2004 and Educator of the Year in 2009 from the University Consortium for Geographic Information Science, and Simon Fraser University's Outstanding Alumni Award for Academic Achievement.

An East Amherst resident, he also was a former player on the Geography Department's soccer team and goalie for its floor hockey team. A dedicated Buffalo Bills and Sabres fan, he attended many games with friends. 

Survivors include his partner of 15 years, Jeri J. Jaeger, a UB professor emerita in linguistics; two step-daughters, Anna Van Valin and Alice Van Valin-Dionne; a step-son, Bob Van Valin; and a step-grandson.

A service was held Oct. 1 in Dengler, Roberts, Perna Funeral Home, East Amherst.

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Reporter

Dale Anderson has been a Buffalo News staff reporter since 1968. He was the chief rock and pop writer for 20 years and helped establish the weekend entertainment magazine Gusto.

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