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Lotus Simon Miller ’46

October 24, 2021, in Ames, Iowa.

Lotus was born in Portland, the younger of two sisters both named after attractive flowers. Her sister Calypso, however, preferred the nickname Mitzi. Lotus was president of her senior class at Reed and graduated as a member of Phi Beta Kappa. Prof. Ralph Macy [biology 1942–55] advised her on her thesis, “An Investigation of the Zonation of Intertidal Animals of Boiler Bay, Oregon,” a topic she chose to become more knowledgeable than her father in at least one area of natural history.

She went on to graduate work at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where she attended the last class of Aldo Leopold, a leader in both wildlife ecology and the United States’ wilderness system. Lotus was a teaching assistant in zoology and earned an MS in zoology with a split minor in botany and wildlife management. She taught biology in the innovative Integrated Liberal Studies program at UW, and her PhD research included some of the first work on the home range of mammals using radioactive tracers. After injecting phosphorus-32 into a meadow vole (Microtus pennsylvanicus) in the UW Arboretum, she was able to trace his movements by using a Geiger counter to examine 121 aluminum dropping boards laid out over an acre in a grid pattern. The resulting scientific paper published in Ecology was reviewed in the New York Times, and Lotus was inducted into Sigma Xi, a scientific research honor society.

While she was in Madison, a mutual friend introduced her to Wilmer Jay Miller, a graduate student in zoology and genetics. After a two-year courtship, they were married by a Unitarian minister at Reed College in 1953. They moved to Woodland, California, where Wilmer worked in a cattle blood–typing lab at UC Davis, and ten years later to Ames, Iowa, where he became a genetics professor at Iowa State University. In the late ’70s, the couple and their two sons, Douglas and Alan, spent a year in Brazil, where Wilmer was invited to set up a cattle blood-typing lab for one of the São Paulo state universities. In the ’90s, Lotus and Wilmer returned to Brazil for three more years in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, made new friends, and experienced the natural history of the region.

The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Ames recognized Lotus for her contributions and volunteer efforts—particularly in connecting children and grownups to the natural world. She cofounded and was president of the Ames Conservation Council; was active in the League of Women Voters, Friends of Foreign Wives, and the Ames Rock and Mineral Club; and chaired the nature study division of the Faculty Women’s Club. Lotus was a charter member of the Ames affiliate of the National Audubon Society and played a major role in saving the Ames High School Prairie for education, research, and recreation. She worked extensively on campaigns to prevent flooding of the Skunk River valley and Ledges State Park. Survivors include her two sons, Douglas Miller and Alan Miller.

Appeared in Reed magazine: March 2022

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