Ted Smayda passed away on April 5, 2017
A week ago today, the HAB and research community lost another giant intellect. Professor Theodore J. Smayda, (Ted as he preferred to be called) passed away after a period of illness.
A graduate of the Braarud School of phytoplankton ecology of Oslo, Norway, Ted held unique skills and insights into phytoplankton dynamics including those of HAB species. Author of over 150 peer reviewed publications and numerous book chapters, he remained a prolific writer and active researchers until the last days. His command of the literature in all languages was legendary and his ability to synthesize information from disparate sources was truly a skill few mastered with his proficiency. His inquisitive mind probed continually for major principles governing the dynamics of phytoplankton which were constantly used to stimulate his many students and colleagues alike. Always willing to listen, Ted developed ideas, questions and testable hypotheses with novice students to well established colleagues. Generous with his thoughts and ideas, he freely shared these through his many presentations at meetings, symposia and invited seminars.
Among his many scientific accomplishments, Ted took pride in the excellent library holdings at the GSO Pell Library in which he personally scoured sources for pertinent literature. This was in keeping with an overriding philosophy of providing an environment where the mind was the limiting factor and all else was provided. Another scientific accomplishment he was particularly proud of was the long term Narragansett Bay Time Series, a data set beginning in 1959 and continuing weekly into the late 1990’s. These data, obtained for various stations in Narragansett Bay but specifically for Station 2 that was sampled weekly over the entire period, remains one of the most complete phytoplankton data sets to date. Unlike other long-term data sets, this was one conducted on whole water samples, detailed species observations to a significant level and included physical chemical data. The legacy of this data set will be available to all in the near future. The data set was also a cohesive element for his students who all contributed to its completion and often generated the hypotheses realized in their thesis research and subsequent publications. Analysis of these data resulted in Ted’s understanding of the open niches provided for HAB species development, phytoplankton patterns occurring over unexpected periods spanning several years and trends significant to understanding effects of climate change.
Ted’s unique view of looking at HAB events as “Rosetta Stones” giving us insights into functioning of complex marine environments where we have few tools to dissect their elements rose from delving these data. He continuously looked through a microscope, knew the species and was able to document their changes in time and in various environments. This occurred at a time when skills at the taxonomic level were disappearing for more convenient but less informative and labor intensive methods. The foundation of these insights will provide stimulus for ideas for many years to come. In a personal vain, Ted was a happy family man, enormously proud of his children and their accomplishments and dearly loved nature including his beloved gardens and pond environment. His love for languages continued and was revealed in his private writing of poetry. A mentor, teacher, perpetual student and lover of knowledge, Ted will be sorely missed but deeply remembered through his enormous legacy of literature, ideas, and continued stimulus to know more. His contributions will continue for yet many years.
University of North Carolina Wilmington.