Derham D. Giuliani passed away from cancer on September 2, 2010. He was seventy nine years of age.
Derham lived in the small town of Big Pine for forty-one years. When he originally moved to the Owens Valley, he sought out local naturalist Enid Larson who took him under her wing and became his mentor in studying the local natural history. With Enid’s death in 1991, Derham took over her long term study of chipmunk population dynamics in the White Mountains, a study which he continued up to the time of his death.
Although known in the White Mountains for his work with chipmunks, Derham immersed himself in a number of projects in the Owens Valley. He worked as a surveyor for the DWP during initiation of the Owens Lake Project. With the discovery of the Inyo Mountains Slender Salamander, Derham mapped its distribution in the eastern Sierra Nevada by starting in each canyon above 8,000 ft and working his way down to the valley floor, looking underneath every possible rock along the way. He documented the insect populations of Paoha and Negit Islands in Mono Lake. Derham’s work extended out into valleys of the Great Basin where he regularly trapped and collected insects. He was most interested in insects adapted to sand dune environments. Eureka Valley was a favorite haunt of his. Several insect species are named after him. Derham’s insect study extended to the elephant seal inhabited Ano Nuevo Island Reserve off the coast of Santa Cruz, and the Farallon Islands off San Francisco. He helped document the distribution of the Desert Slender Salamander in Palm Canyon.
For years in Big Pine, Derham was known as the Ringtail Man, for he shared his residence with a small population of Ringtail Cats. The animals had an outside enclosure with an entryway into his home where Derham could sit in his room and observe their behavior. In pursuit of this study, Derham himself adopted the nocturnal schedule of the ringtails.
Derham was the kindest most unassuming soul that one could ever hope to encounter. I knew him as a neighbor, and during his daily walks he would often stop to talk when he encountered me outside working on my house. He was full of questions, questions about the workings of the natural world. The man’s love of nature knew no bounds. And up to the very last moment, when he knew his time on Earth would soon end, he was out walking, eyes directed upwards at the birds in the trees, literally beaming at the wonder and beauty of the world around him. We miss him greatly.
Big Pine Resident Dave Stockton