Jeff Graham Tributes
Having come through SIO-PRL for my studies, the Graham lab was always a mainstay of the group, the excitement and the “unknown” aspects of how animals made a living in the ocean. I worked with Dr. Kooyman on marine mammals, but the two labs had much in common as we both tried to figure out the cost of exercise for large animals moving through water and the biochemical / physiological profiles of exercise. I taught The Physiology of Marine Organisms for over 20 years at the University of Alaska and every year, the students would get papers written by Jeff about the evolution air exchange, the function of gills, and learn about how swim tunnels worked. Just two weeks ago I was giving a guest lecture about hydrodynamics and how I remembered the Graham Lab tuna in the Ring Tank at SIO-PRL when I was there… It will be strange to visit SIO and not have him there.
— Dr. Michael Castellini, Dean, School of Fisheries and Ocean Science, University of Alaska Fairbanks
A Humble Man, with Great Achievements
research interests in cardiorespiratory physiology, especially how fish gills
and hearts work, have regularly crisscrossed with mine for over three
decades. Therefore, I have long history
of admiring his research achievements. We were friends. Yet, we never worked together at the
and solved some of the big research mysteries that have puzzled and teased
comparative animal physiologists. However,
he was not one to blow his own horn.
Below are three examples of his great achievements.
stamped in the literature is his pioneer set of studies, which illuminated how
a shark heart can paradoxically pump variable volumes of blood while contained
within a relatively rigid pericardial chamber has become.
research is replete with technical innovations that others have since adopted
or adapted. Yet, I doubt that
anything will technically surpass Jeff’s innovation to swim large pelagic
fishes (sharks and tunas) while performing respirometry - his colossal Elasmotunatron. This innovation propelled forward the
field of exercise physiology in fish.
book, Air Breathing Fishes, is a
marvelous example of the leadership he provided to our field. Absolutely nothing prior to this tome
came close to its breadth and depth of coverage, and it will be a long time
before its content is surpassed. Writing books is about leading others and this
is exactly what Jeff’s tome does.
has a place among the giants of in the field of comparative animal physiology,
which is decidedly in a much better shape for his contributions. He will be
— Tony Farrell, Professor, University of British Columbia
When the director of our beautiful Birch Aquarium at Scripps
suddenly resigned, the Institution faced a dilemma; how would we keep the
Aquarium on an even keel during the inevitably long process to find a new
director? We turned to Jeff Graham
for help. To me the choice made
sense, since Jeff was a fish person. But a deeper reason was revealed to me in our first interview about the
interim directorship. Jeff had
grown up with the old aquarium and it had nurtured his youthful fascination
with marine biology.
Jeff inherited just about the most difficult situation
imaginable. The Aquarium was in
financial deep yogurt. The
University had taken it into receivership. There had been no new exhibits or shows for quite some
time. This in itself was
demoralizing to the staff, but now they did not know whom they were working
for-the upper campus or Scripps? There was no clear sense of direction. If you asked Jeff’s academic colleagues what they thought of
the Aquarium, there were effectively responding “What aquarium--what has it done recently?” It
looked like it would be difficult to ask the faculty to come to the Aquarium’s
rescue. And on Jeff’s side, while
he had worked with the Aquarium in the past, he was unfamiliar with the depth
of the issues, and besides, as an interim director, he would lack the perceived
authority to carry out big reforms, yet big reforms were needed.
At that interview, Jeff and I agreed that he would act as a
permanent director would and go flat out to fix as many problems as he could in
the time he had.
If you solve the people problems, the money problems will
take care of themselves. Jeff’s
first problem was staff morale.
Just having such a warm unselfish person in charge made a big
difference. But it was essential
to instill a sense of initiative--that the Aquarium could still mount displays
and new exhibits, even if it was in debt.
Jeff decided to build a shark tank the way an experimentalist would,
piecing together bits of equipment and doing much of the work by himself, his
students, and volunteers. One of
the most important volunteers was Howard Robbins and his wife Lynne, who
provided a funding jumpstart. Howard
was even put to work several days a week building the tank, and Howard enlisted
some of his friends from industry to donate their services. The shark tank got done and it is still
there. It gives the Aquarium the
opportunity to teach that most sharks are harmless, that they are endangered,
and should be protected.
Then there was the issue of strategic direction. To Jeff, it
was simple. The Aquarium does not
work for the upper campus; the Aquarium does not work for Scripps; it works with
Scripps. The Aquarium’s unique
opportunity lies in showcasing Scripps science and teaching its significance. The Aquarium staff are professional communicators who can
help Scripps scientists tell their story to the public. To do this, you had to build
partnerships among staff and scientists. Jeff started this process off, by initiating the monthly Monday evening
lectures, in which Scripps scientists give lectures to the general public on
their research. It is impressive
how much time the scientists put into their presentations, which are now
televised on UCSD-TV. The
Perspective on Ocean Science televised lectures, which recently had their five
millionth download, are probably the primary way Scripps science reaches the
public. They are becoming a
chronicle of ocean science and a valuable historical resource.
It is astounding to me that Jeff had done the job of a
full-time director while still continuing his research and meeting with his
students. How many trips a day did
he make between lab and Aquarium?
How many students went back and forth with him? We will never know and, alas, he is not
here to tell us. But it had to be
wearing, perhaps most of all to Rosemary. Jeff must have been the happiest person of all when we recruited
Nigella Hillgarth to be permanent Director. The Aquarium has prospered mightily since she came. This year, it was named the best museum
in San Diego. Nigella and I both
agree that Jeff reversed terminal
decline, stabilized the Aquarium, and started it on the path to excellence
which it has followed since.
It is not too much to say Jeff Graham saved the Aquarium. The more the time passes, the more we
When Jeff stepped down, there was the question of how to
honor him. We decided to rename
the lecture series he created, The
Jeffrey B. Graham Perspectives on Ocean Science. The series has become a fixture, and Jeff’s name will be
associated with the Aquarium for years, decades, to come.
— Charles F. Kennel, Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science, Emeritus; Senior Advisor, Sustainability Solutions Institute, UC San Diego
Melba and I have lost a great scholar, scientist, and friend. We will miss his wry comments, words of wisdom, and his leadership on this campus.
— Gerald Kooyman, Professor of Biology, Emeritus, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Jeff was a good friend and mentor who has influenced me
throughout my career. He had a
profound impact on all of his students. He pushed us to think more deeply about our science, especially the
evolutionary implications, and ensured that we appreciated the historical
context of our work. We learned
more because he involved us in aspects of the physiological work with which he and other students and
colleagues were engaged, even if it was not directly related to our own
projects, and he forged a network among us all. Early on, he recognized the importance of international
experiences for students, perhaps as a result of his own work abroad, and he
helped obtain funding to allow such opportunities for his students. He has shaped us all, and will be missed
for his contributions to science, his friendship, humor, humanity, and artistic
talents. Now his influence will live on through his students.
— Kathryn Dickson, Professor of Biology, California State University, Fullerton; Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Ph.D., 1988
I knew Jeff as one of the stalwarts of comparative physiology at SIO. His work has helped make SIO a renowned center for the discipline by continuing the traditions of the Physiological Research Laboratory (PRL) established by Per Scholander. Notably, Jeff was one of the best natural historians I have ever known who was also an accomplished comparative physiologist. His grounding in experimental approaches didn’t scare him away from big theoretical questions though, as evidenced by his important and influential work on the evolution of air breathing.
— Frank L. Powell, Professor, Dept. of Medicine, UC San Diego; Director, White Mountain Research Station
Jeffrey B. Graham was full of important thought, innovation, and creative energy. His research vision and accomplishments will shape science for a long time to come. Jeffrey’s artistic creations moved and inspired us. As one fortunate enough to call Jeff a mentor and friend, I say that his creative abilities included sculpting me by recognizing my raw potential and giving unselfishly to nurture and grow it in ways that shaped my life forever. The long list of students for which Jeff did this while unveiling the satisfaction and fun of studying the natural world is certainly large in his even larger legacy. I will miss my treasured friend and mentor every day.
— Troy Baird, Professor of Biology, University of Central Oklahoma
Jeff's body of work represents
an essential contribution to physiology, and he can undoubtedly be considered
one of the greatest comparative physiologists of all time. Jeff was my faculty mentor, and I cannot begin
to explain the difference his mentoring has made in my career. I will truly
miss him, and I regret I have not had the opportunity of spending more time
with him. Jeff lived a full life, with
adventures around the world, important contributions to science and society,
and a wonderful family and group of friends. Time will eventually wash away these sad
feeling, and he will forever be remembered as the happy and wonderful person he
Tresguerres, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
I was a colleague of Jeff's
for 30+ years. We worked on research questions concerning the
cardio-respiratory systems of albacore tuna, white sturgeon, and blue and mako
sharks. Jeff was a real innovator as a scientist, and he was wonderfully
human. He had many students and collaborators, and we will all miss him.”
— Joe Cech, Professor
Emeritus, Department of Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology, UC Davis
Those wishing to add remembrances of Jeffrey Graham are invited to email them to email@example.com.