having crossed the Atlantic twice, once on a freighter and later
on a tanker, the oceans held little interest for me as a young
man except as a painful reminder of the displacement, physical
as well as emotional, that wars create. Because of the direct
impact that WWII had on my life the oceans were to me a vast
body of water separating me from the home and the people of
as a zoology student I developed little interest in the Oceans.
It was not until 1969 that an unanticipated and very direct
experience altered that opinion and set into motion a journey
now coming full circle.
this time I had a MS degree in Medical Microbiology, but no
ambition to be trapped in a research laboratory. Teaching had
not even entered my mind.
a road trip through Bodega Bay I noticed a sign indicating the
UC Bodega Marine Lab. Upon returning home I called and asked
if there were any research positions open for a marine microbiologist.
There were none but there was a position open for a collector.
I was fortunate to get the job and for the next two years emulated
the life of Jacques Costeau as best I could. Most of it fantasy
experience required an intimate relationship between myself
and the ocean. Not necessarily a competent one nor indeed spiritual
one, just a new respect and familiarity. I left that position
for a number of reasons, none of which make sense today but...
was not until 20 years later that I would again be drawn to
the sea. This time with an opportunity to direct a good part
of how the experience would evolve and what its focus might
1992 I was offered the position of Executive Director of Pelagikos,
a marine research NGO with an 84 ft. sailing schooner (Dariabar)
and dynamic ideas about how to use this vessel to better understand
the oceans and its creatures. I acted as Director for six years,
and had the good fortune to sail on Dariabar a number of times.
the summers of 1995 and 1996, we made three voyages to the Channel
Islands with students from Mendocino College to document Blue
and Humpback Whale sightings. (Plans are to conduct similar
expeditions this summer. Anyone interested can contact me.
the winter of 97-98 I sailed as a proud, albeit inexperienced
crewman (not director or teacher), on Dariabar across the Pacific
to Hawai'i where we stayed for a number of months as the research
vessel for Cornell University's Humpback studies.
these experiences I developed a fondness for the sea and its
creatures; particularly warm, clear seas and the creatures within
them. I am now closing in on retirement after almost 30 years
of teaching at Mendocino College. I started here in 1973 as
the college's first biology/chemistry instructor but life changes
redirected my energies and I could only teach part time after
am also closing in on my 60th year of life. A great time for
wife and I have found a delightful little village in southern
Baja where we have purchased some land. Last Christmas we found
a 1962 Airstream trailer, fixed it up and hauled it down there
where it now sits awaiting our next visit.
else has happened which ties things together in a way fantasized
but not really expected. I would like to continue doing marine
research, and I would like to do it in the Sea of Cortez where
our land is. Maybe start a little lab associated with the local
want to do reef work. Basically surveying, according to GCRMN
(Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network) methodology, the six
reefs found in the area. Reefs worldwide are in danger. The
ones in the Sea of Cortez are not protected and are being badly
damaged through both human and natural causes.
has happened is that on a recent visit to La Paz I was granted
access to CIB (Centro de Investigaciones de Biologicas del Noroeste,
S.C.) and an interview with one of its directors. After expressing
my fantasies in my usual demure manner, it became evident that
the fantasy need not remain so.
were enthusiastic about my reef/lab idea and interested in the
possibility of working together. The interest was heightened
when I mentioned Dariabar and its research capabilities. Upon
returning home I contacted the Captain and found to my delight
that he saw a strong possibility of having the vessel in Cortez
waters during the winter season.
is of course the time I would like most to be there, and when
the reef work would be most productive and enjoyable. It is
necessary to survey the reefs twice a year for three years to
get a "baseline" of conditions. This would entail a stay of
4-6 months in Baja for me and lots of dive and kayak time. In
between surveys, there is some important whale work to be done
I am graced by the gods, I may be on the verge of an exciting
new chapter in my life and an opportunity to use what talents
I have to affect environmental policy. I will also have more
stories to tell.
Five years have now passed since I wrote the above. Much has changed, not the least of which is my marital status. Once again I am divorced and have spent the last 4 years adjusting, very comfortably I must say, to my new situation.
The reef work has been slow due to two factors: one, a need for a dive partner and two, because I found in 2004 that there is a significant Humpback breeding and calving area directly off my beach and I chose to engage in photo ID work again. I have been collaborating with Dr. Jorge Urban at the Univ. of La Paz as part of the SPLASH* project involving the entire North Pacific (some sites: Washington, Hawaii, NOAA).
*Structure of Populations, Level of Abundance and Status of the Humpback
I have also been collaborating with Richard Sears of Mingan Island Cetacean Study in the photo identification of Blue Whales.
I am returning to El Cardonal in Jan. 2008 to continue my studies. What began as a mere pastime has become the dominant passion in my life. I expect to have the data necessary after two more seasons to perhaps persuade the authorities to declare the area a whale sanctuary. After that I have been offered a research collaboration with Scott Taylor at The Cetacean Studies Institute in Australia to investigate human/cetacean communication. Life is good!
My ultimate goal is now to create an independent marine lab in El Cardonal to investigate a variety of marine issues in the Baja Sur region.
to my resumé