Randall Morgan was born in 1947 in Santa Cruz County, California. He grew up on a small ranch covered with cherry and plum orchards in the outskirts of Soquel with his three brothers Wayne, Jeff, and Jon. His father was a hard worker who was quiet with a gentle soul, an underrated sense of humor, and a twinkle in his eye. Randy’s mother was more the driver in the family, fiercely devoted and wise. From his early years, Morgan was interested in the natural world. Some of his very first words came after seeing a few birds fly by his kitchen window and him turning to ask his father “What kind of bird was that?”

At the age of only five, he fell sick with rheumatic fever and was bedridden for an entire year, leaving him to gaze out of his bedroom window at the beautiful, flighty creatures that truly became his first loves. As soon as he recovered and was old enough, Randy was eager to spend time duck hunting with his father, which allowed him to get even closer to the creatures that captivated his attention. “Every time a dead bird would come my way, I would think - it’s too beautiful and interesting to let it rot!”.  He followed up on this interest by processing and cleaning hunted ducks so that he could spend time studying their plumage and unique trachea, hanging them on his wall as a collection, every part of these organisms leaving him enthralled.

Randy began his formal education inspired by a collection of mounted birds displayed at Soquel Elementary. By age twelve, because of his increased interest in birds, his father helped him to learn the process of taxidermy. By virtue of being a small farmer, his father had some knowledge about such things and got Randy the equipment, sitting with his eagerly curious son and reading step-by-step instructions. Randy’s father eventually built him a large desk so that he would have a space for his taxidermy work.

Around the same time, finances had become very strained, and Randy’s parents had to sell the family farm to developers who were building houses around the up-and-coming University of California, Santa Cruz. Seeing bulldozers come through the vast spaces where he adventured with his brothers was hard for Randy to handle. It was a pivotal moment in his sense of injustice in how humans tend to treat the natural world.

Randy was only in high school when he emerged onto the local birding scene by joining the Santa Cruz Bird Club, and his involvement only increased over time. As soon as he began attending college at UC Santa Cruz, he was hired by the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History to make lifelike mounts of birds and mammals. This taxidermy work helped him pay his way through college in a time “before it became too expensive to pay your way through college”. Randy also had a keen interest in obscure languages and the native peoples of California, graduating from UCSC with a Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics. His interest in etymology of language and native peoples aligned well with his personality and highlighted his intense curiosity and fierce attention to detail.

During his undergraduate years, he spent countless hours compiling and consolidating the county ornithological record to create the most thorough archive ever gathered up to that time. This later came to be known as the "Bird File". This organized record-keeping by Randy and many other early naturalists helped to inspire our modern day citizen science data collection efforts.

Randy's focus then shifted to plants with his introduction to a new mentor named William “Wild Bill” Anderson. He met Bill through his grandfather, a retiree from the Department of Fish and Wildlife and member of the Santa Cruz Bird Club. Bill had invited Randy to tag along on a birding trip and eventually many more trips throughout the early 1970s where he “rubbed  [Randy's] nose in plants until it caught”.

The Endangered Species Act and other important environmental laws enacted in the early 1970s helped create jobs for Randy and other biologists to conduct biological surveys and monitor endangered species. One day Randy was sent to the Quail Hollow Sand Quarry to do a biological survey and was struck by the uniqueness of the sandhills ecosystem. The annual flowers and rare insects made him see it as a “different world”, and he knew there was no way he could see this land be destroyed.

Through his conservation work with the sandhills, he realized that the ultimate salvation of these habitats would be finding and documenting endangered or rare insects in these places. This was because the Endangered Species Act afforded better protection to animals than it did for plants. This quickly led to yet another intense interest within the world of natural history: entomology.

Entomology and collecting insects became a new goal for Randy after a pivotal moment in the sandhills in the early 1980s. After visiting a specific area that developers had stripped the surface of the hill, he was looking for any sign of hope. He realized that if this site was simply left alone for a few years, it would have the ability to recover vegetation and fauna. This is when he observed the rare and endangered Smith’s Blue butterfly on a Coast Buckwheat plant. He used the discovery of this butterfly to help achieve greater protection for the sandhills.

In 1989, Randy began to collect insects systematically to document their diversity in many ecosystems around the county that either were already or would eventually be threatened by development. He decided it would be a 10-year project. He would collect from 3-6 sites every year and repeat a few of them for consistency.

During this time, Randy made many other important discoveries. In the early 1990s, Randy found a beetle that had not been described before in a few intact coastal prairie habitats. At the time, Randy’s insect collection was housed at the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History where a committed volunteer, Patricia Smith did much of the labeling of the specimens. For all of her hard work, Randy wished to describe the species and name it after her. To his dismay, his first two choices for the species name, Cicindela smithii or Cicindela patriceae, were already taken! There simply were so many beetles already described in the world that these names were already in use. In the end, he decided to name this charismatic insect Cicindela ohlone, the Ohlone Tiger Beetle. The Ohlone Tiger Beetle would soon become the first invertebrate listed as a federally endangered species.