George E. Gruell Papers

Identifier: 2015-02

Scope and Contents

The George E. Gruell Papers span the years 1812-2015. The bulk of the materials date from 1963-2009. Earlier materials that date to the 1800s and early 1900s are comprised primarily of copies of original reports and book excerpts that were used by Gruell for his research of historical ecology. These papers are a representation and reflection of George Gruell's long career as a Wildlife Biologist, Fuels Management Officer, and later as a consultant, contractor, and instructor in Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. The materials cover a wide variety of subject matter related to, but not limited to wildland ecology, forest and range management, and wildlife. They also include a variety of photographs used in Gruell's repeat photography publications and as reference for his research and instruction.

In addition to the more than 30 articles, reports, and books authored and co-authored by Gruell, this collection is comprised almost entirely of reports, articles, studies, bibliographies, and conference proceedings about ecological and environmental issues around the West. Gruell maintained these materials by grouping them together based on subject. This original order was mostly maintained during processing aside from arranging subject files into alphabetical order and splitting up each subject into folders based on date or date ranges.

Series 1: Publications by George E. Gruell, includes copies of the more than 30 articles, reports, and two books authored and co-authored by Gruell. It also includes information about his career highlights, book reviews, and a complete bibliography. This series includes two subseries: 1) Authored; and 2) Co-Authored.

Series 2: Research Subject Files, contains the bulk of the material in this collection. It includes articles, reports, studies, book excerpts, news clips, minimal correspondence, and conference and workshop proceedings. All subject files remained together as they were received, though during processing, they were arranged in alphabetical order and each subject was split into folders based on date or date ranges. Many of these materials have Gruell's notes or annotations included on or within.

Series 3: Audio/Visual is comprised of photographs, VHS tapes, and reel-to-reel films from the early years of Gruell's career as a Wildlife Biologist to his work as a consultant. The photographs include many of Gruell's work with repeat photography in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and in other locations around the West.


  • 1812-2015
  • Majority of material found within 1963-2009


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials must be used on-site; advance notice suggested. Access to parts of this collection may be restricted under provisions of state or federal law.

Conditions Governing Use

This collection has mixed rights protections. Portions in which University of Nevada, Reno is the copyright holder are available for non-commercial use, including sharing and adapting the work. No permission required for non-commercial use to these portions; attribution is required.

Many of the historical photographs used as reference for repeat photography in Series 3 are the property of other institutions. Permission must be obtained from those respective copyright holders. If you have any information that can contribute to identifying or locating the rights-holder(s) please notify the University of Nevada, Reno Special Collections and University Archives Department. ( InC-RUU 1.0).

Biographical Note

George Gruell was born in 1927 in Ventura, California to his parents George and Genevieve Gruell. He graduated from Humboldt State College in Arcata, California in 1953 with a B.S. in Wildlife Management. Not long after graduation, he began his professional career with the Nevada Fish and Game Department, where he remained for five years. After his time with the Nevada Fish and Game Department, Gruell went on to serve with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service as a Wildlife Biologist on national forests in Nevada and Wyoming, a Research Biologist in Montana, and a Regional Fuels Management Officer with the Intermountain Region covering Utah, Nevada, and portions of Wyoming and Idaho for the next 25 years.

Beginning early in his career, Gruell developed an awareness of the importance of developing an understanding of historical ecology, or the interactions between humans and their environments over long periods. As a result, he hiked, bushwhacked, and occasionally helicoptered his way into dozens of mountain locales featured in historical photographs from the 1800s and early 1900s in an attempt to recreate the photographs as accurately as possible. This technique is referred to as "repeat photography."

Gruell would seek out the same boulders, peaks, and vantage points, and when he found them, he would take another photograph. This resulted in a collection of nearly 400 photographs which document the changes and in condition of forests and rangelands spanning the period 1849 to 1994 in the northern Rockies, Great Basin, and Sierra Nevada. Many of the photographs reveal the varying effects of heavy livestock grazing, logging, a fluctuating climate, changes in wildlife habitat, and anti-fire policies over the decades. Gruell's pioneering work and familiarity with historical and scientific literature led him to a comprehensive understanding of vegetative succession and implications on the management of wildland ecosystems. His publications and photographs also advocate in many ways for intentional disturbance of landscapes including prescribed burns to increase the overall health of ecosystems.

After his retirement from the U.S. Forest Service in 1987, Gruell began lecturing and consulting on fire ecology and its effects on wildlife habitat. Over the years, he has given numerous presentations at workshops, symposia, and training sessions that address issues of forest management, fire effects on wildlife habitat, landscape ecology, and ecosystem management. Additionally, he has carried out fire history contracts with Great Basin National Park, Hart-Sheldon Wildlife Refuges, Bridgeport Ranger District, and Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.

Along with numerous other publications produced throughout his career on forest succession, wildlife ecology, wildlife habitat conditions and trends, fire history, and fire ecology, Gruell also published two books after his retirement. These books include: Fire in Sierra Nevada Forests: A Photographic Interpretation of Ecological Change Since 1849 published in 2001, and Nevada's Changing Wildlife Habitat: An Ecological History published in 2012.


27.792 Linear Feet (29 boxes)

Language of Materials



George E. Gruell began his career with the State of Nevada Fish and Game Deparment in 1953. After five years, went on to joined the U.S. Forest Service where he remained for the next 25 years serving first as a Wildlife Biologist in the national forests and experiment stations of Nevada, Wyoming, and Montana and later as a Fuels Management Officer for the Intermountain Region based in Ogden, Utah. Gruell retired in 1987 but continued working as a consultant, contractor and instructor. Throughout his career, he's published numerous articles, reports, and books, and has retaken over 400 historical photographs to demonstrate vegetative succession in locations around the West.

The George E. Gruell Papers contain materials that cover Gruell's long career with state and federal agencies, and later as a consultant, contractor, instructor, and author. Much of Gruell's work and research focused on wildlife habitat management in forests including pinyon-juniper communities, the effects of fire on wildlife habitats in the Sierra Nevada, and landscape ecology in the West. Throughout his career, Gruell amassed more than 400 photographs which document the changes to forests and rangelands due to fire and human activity over more than 150 years. Materials include articles, reports, studies, books, workshop and conference proceedings, news clips, and correspondence.


Arranged into the following series: 1) Publications by George E. Gruell; 2) Research Subject Files; 3) Audio/Visual

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by George E. Gruell in January and April 2015.

Related Materials

Related archival materials held by the UNR Special Collections Department: The James D. Yoakum Papers, 2013-27.

  • 6 books removed and placed in Special Collections catalog. 1 book removed to circulation catalog. 3 books removed to surplus


Guide to the George E. Gruell Papers
Edan Strekal
June 2018
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Nevada, Reno. Special Collections Department Repository

Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center
1664 N. Virginia St.
Reno Nevada 89557-0322 USA
775-682-5724 (Fax)