UW News

November 13, 2008

Internationally known oceanographer’s memorial Nov. 16 on campus

Warren Wooster, who died Oct. 29 at the age of 87, will be remembered at a memorial from 2 to 4 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 16 at the University of Washington Club. Wooster was an international leader in bringing oceanographic science to the management of fisheries and other marine resources.

A professor emeritus of marine affairs, Wooster advocated that fisheries managers should broaden their focus from fisheries biology to include what oceanographers and atmospheric scientists were studying. An example was his work five decades ago to separate the possible effects of overfishing from a little studied condition called El Nino in the collapse of the anchovy fishery off Peru. Today it is well known that El Nino events can cause massive disruptions in marine resources.

“Trained originally as a chemical oceanographer, Warren shifted over time to physical oceanography as it is linked primarily to fisheries,” says Ed Miles, UW professor of marine affairs. “This marriage of fields came to be called fisheries oceanography.”

Wooster was also known internationally because he helped launch or found several key international organizations for conducting marine science.

“Warren created and nurtured lasting international institutions that benefit thousands of marine scientists and society in general,” says Mike Sissenwine, the former director of the national scientific programs and chief science advisor for NOAA-Fisheries. “It is hard to imagine anyone who has had more influence on the institutional arrangements for international marine science on a global scale.”

Sissenwine says the three most influential international organizations for ocean sciences in terms of scientific participation and influence on policy are the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, of which Wooster was the first director, the International Council for Exploration of the Sea, of which he was the first president, and the North Pacific Marine Science Organization, which he founded.

“The international ocean science organization PICES is a thriving monument to Warren,” says Kevin Bailey, senior scientist with NOAA-Fisheries in Seattle and a former student of Wooster. “He had the ability to get people from different countries and disciplines of ocean science to communicate and work together to make the Earth a better place.”

Wooster started at the UW in 1976 as a professor of marine affairs and fisheries. From 1979 to 1982 he was director of the School of Marine Affairs, then called the Institute for Marine Studies. He retired from the UW in 1991, continuing his research, publishing and international activities as a professor emeritus.

Wooster also served as dean of the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Miami, from 1973-1976; worked 23 years with Scripps Institution of Oceanography, from 1948 to 1961 as a research oceanographer and from 1963 to 1973 as a professor; and was director of the Office of Oceanography for UNESCO, 1961 to 1963. Click here for more about his career.

Wooster and his wife Clarissa, known as Polly, were married for 60 years and had three children. Donations can be made to the UW’s Clarissa and Warren Wooster Endowed Fund.

“Warren Wooster was a wonderful teacher who respected students and had a passion for knowledge. He had high standards and helped his students to reach his high expectations,” says Ginny Broadhurst, a former student and director of Northwest Straits Commission, based in Mount Vernon.

“I think the keys to his success were his wit, wisdom and love of life that infected those around him.”