Skip to main content

Royal D. Suttkus Papers

Identifier: LaRC-1119

Scope and Contents

The Royal D Suttkus papers contain field journals, formal collection descriptions, correspondence, permits, permit requests, published research, and other materials from his career as an ichthyologist and professor. Suttkus’ field journals catalogue his habitual activities, species collections, location, and contact with other researchers. Suttkus numbers every specimen collected, the location of collection, the river mileage, temperature, description, and time, and occasionally a specimen description. Suttkus also records the cost of each research trip. These journals range from June 1964-October 2000. Each formal collection description includes the location, river mileage, river description, air and water temperature, weather, depth of capture, method of capture, date, collector, and species list. These range from May 1948 to his last confirmed collection in August 2005. Letters document the correspondence between Professor Suttkus and permit agencies, politicians, researchers, coworkers, students, and others. A large portion of the collection consists of permits and permit requests. Professor Suttkus applied for collection permits from state departments and from the federal government for protected species. These range from 1969-1992. The remainder of the collection includes published research, collection reports, articles on Suttkus, research manuscripts, and endangered species documentation.


  • 1948-2005


Conditions Governing Access

Access is unrestricted.

Conditions Governing Use

Physical rights are retained by the Louisiana Research Collection. Copyright is retained in accordance with U.S. copyright laws.

Biographical / Historical

Dr. Royal D Suttkus was born on May 11, 1920 to John Allbright Suttkus and Myna Louise Schultz Suttkus. He graduated high school in 1937 and enrolled at Michigan State University. Over the summers in college, he pursued conservation work, such as work for the US Bureau of Entomology and Plant Quarantine in Fremont in 1940 and Coeur d’Alene National Forest in Idaho in 1941. He was a member of the ROTC at MSU and in the fall of 1942, was inducted into the Army Reserves. By 1946, he was discharged and began applications to graduate schools at Cornell, UCLA, and the University of Michigan. At Cornell, he was denied acceptance by the Department of Ornithology, but was accepted as a graduate student under Dr. Edward C Raney for ichthyology. He earned his PhD from Cornell in May 1951 and was hired by the Tulane Zoology Department. Since joining Tulane’s faculty in 1950, he began building the Tulane fish collection. By 1968, the collection had outgrown its space in Richardson Memorial and Dinwiddie Hall. The fish, bird, mammal, and vertebrate fossil collections were moved to the F Edward Hebert Riverside Research Laboratories in Belle Chasse under his direction. In 1976, the Tulane administration formally recognized the Riverside collections as the Tulane University Museum of Natural History. He was appointed as the Museum’s first director. By the year 2000, the collection had over 7 million specimens, of which Professor Suttkus had a hand in collecting over 5 million himself. At this point, it had been recognized as the largest collection of post-larval fishes in the world. Dr. Royal D Suttkus was recognized for his work outside of the Tulane Fish Collection as well. In 1959, he was appointed as the editor in chief of Copeia journal. From 1963-1968, he acted as the Principal Investigator of the Environmental Biology Training Program run by the NIH, a program in which students received training on specimen collection and analysis. In 1963, he established a consulting business with Gerald E Gunning that surveyed rivers throughout the Southeast. Specimens collected during these surveys were preserved and catalogued. Although he retired in 1990, he continued to publish work and maintain the collection. He described 34 species as new to science and published 122 in-print papers over the course of his career, including research on species conservation, descriptions of new species, and adaptation reviews. On December 28, 2009, Royal D Suttkus passed away in Decatur, Georgia at the age of 89.


4 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Collection is arranged by document type and date unless otherwise specified. Suttkus' original file labels have been retained when possible.

Condition Description

Field notebooks survived Hurricane Katrina in Suttkus' residence on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. While the notebooks are made out of wax paper and did not receive much damage, the covers had some damage. They have been cleaned and repaired by a conservator.

Processing Information

Processed by Samia Sabir in 2018, supervised by Andrew Mullins, III.
Royal D. Suttkus papers
In Progress
Samia Sabir. Supervised by Andrew Mullins, III.
2018 November 26
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Tulane University Special Collections Repository

Jones Hall Room 202
6801 Freret Street
New Orleans 70118 US