Centennial Story 60: Gary Stauffer (BS, 1966; MS, 1969; PhD, 1973)

I first visited the College of Fisheries in July 1962 and met with Alan DeLacy (MS, 1933; PhD, 1941), who became my undergraduate advisor. I learned about the College from Dale Schoeneman who worked for the Washington Department of Fisheries. He was from my hometown (Wenatchee) and advertised Camel cigarettes in national magazines! At the time, I was debating whether to major in engineering or biology. Dale conducted research on salmon passage over dams and worked alongside engineers. He was not encouraging because of the low pay for fishery biologists, but after reading the College’s catalog, I was convinced that I should pursue fishery biology. After my freshmen year of taking calculus, chemistry, and physics, I signed up for fish taxonomy with Arthur Welander (MS, 1940; PhD, 1946) and commercially important invertebrates with Al Sparks, followed by a year of marine fisheries with Alan DeLacy.  When I became the RACE Division Director at the AFSC in 1986, I found that the job involved being Al Sparks’s boss. Conducting his annual performance review was always intimidating to say the least!

It was Doug Chapman’s applied statistics classes during my junior year that introduced me to the quantitative analysis side of fishery research. During spring break 1964, I was hired by Bob Ting (PhD, 1965), who studied under Dean Van Cleve, to assist with his benthic fauna study of Puget Sound. At the end of the week, we returned to the College of Fisheries dock on Good Friday in the late afternoon of March 27.  Captain Tom Oswald had extreme difficulties landing the vessel; the Commando surged back and forth slamming into the dock about three or four times. Later that night, I learned about the great Alaskan earthquake!

Bob Ting's hydraulic bottom dredge that we deployed from the Commando
Bob Ting’s hydraulic bottom dredge that we deployed from the Commando

Later that spring, Bob recommended me to Jim Mason at the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries for a summer fishery technician job collecting sockeye salmon scales from the major sockeye rivers in Alaska under the leadership of Jean Dunn (who years later worked in the RACE Division at NMFS during my time in the Division).

I spent the summers of 1964 and 1965 flying and driving, where possible, to almost all the major Alaskan sockeye rivers—from the Copper River in Prince William Sound to the Wood River system in Bristol Bay, including the rivers on Kodiak and in the Cook Inlet. That was an amazing experience and education in salmon biology and management. I have many lasting memories of that time, including seeing first-hand the destruction of Alaskan cities and ports by the earthquake and resulting tidal waves. Upon my return to Seattle in August 1965, I was hired by Denny Miller (MS, 1965) as a technician to assist Marty Nelson (MS, 1966), who was monitoring the adult chinook return to the Duwamish River in Elliott Bay.

After I graduated in 1966, I was offered a research assistantship with FRI to take over for Marty, who had left for a permanent job with the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries (Marty also lead the Acoustic Survey Program in the RACE Division at NMFS during my time there). I had not thought about going to graduate school, but I couldn’t pass up this opportunity.  Gerald Paulik (PhD, 1959) offered to be my major professor for my MS, and I enrolled in June 1966. Jerry Wetherall (PhD, 1971) was also offered an assistantship to monitor the downstream migration of chinook smolts from the Green River hatchery. We both signed up for Gerry Paulik’s population dynamics classes starting in the fall of 1966. Unbeknownst to us, Gerry shuffled his syllabus for his three-class series so that Jerry and I could be immersed in mark/recapture analytical models in the fall rather than the spring, which was critical to the progress of our research. I was asked to lead the adult research for the third year, but told that I would not be responsible for including the 1967 research in my thesis. That became the responsibility of Jeff Fujioka (MS, 1970; PhD, 1978), who has been a life-long friend. As a result, I did not finish my MS until the end of fall quarter 1969.

Chuck Fowler (MS, 1966; PhD, 1973), Bill Lenarz (MS, 1966; PhD, 1969) and Gary in 2000
Chuck Fowler (MS, 1966; PhD, 1973), Bill Lenarz (MS, 1966; PhD, 1969) and Gary in 2000

In the midst of my MS studies, I met my future wife, Diane, who worked in the FRI front office. In those years, almost all of the fishery students were men, and the few women that they met worked for the College or FRI. As a result, marriages of employed women and fisheries students were common. In the spring of 1968, Doug Chapman and Gerry Paulik offered me one of the five Ford Foundation Scholarships with the newly established Center for Quantitative Science to pursue a PhD in Fisheries. If I recall correctly, the other four graduate students offered scholarships in the first year were Bill Fox (PhD, 1972), Gil Robinson (PhD, 1972) from South Africa, Ray Bressler (economics), and Bill Farr (forestry). Bill Clark (PhD, 1975) and Jim Balsiger (PhD, 1974) joined CQS in 1969. Both Fox and Balsiger served as Science Directors for NOAA/NMFS and as assistant administrators for NOAA Fisheries.

I left the College for one year to work for the Quinault Indian Tribe as a fishery biologist for their new nature resources program after I passed the foreign language exam and general exam for my PhD. I returned in 1972 to finish my PhD thesis on a growth model for predicting weekly growth rates of salmon reared in hatcheries. Gerry Paulik passed away suddenly in fall 1972. This was a great shock to everyone in the College. He was an inspiration and mentor to us all. Doug Chapman told those of us who had Gerry as our major professor not to worry as he would take over. My PhD thesis and defense were completed in March 1973, at which time Tim Smith (PhD, Biotstat, 1973)­­ and I took a job with NMFS at the SWFSC and moved our families to La Jolla, California. We were hired by Brian Rothschild (who served on my MS committee) and Bill Fox, our new supervisor, to work in the new Tuna/Porpoise Program.

During my nine years in La Jolla, I kept in touch with my friends at the College and frequently recommended the College to students interested in pursuing undergraduate or graduate degrees in fisheries. I returned to Seattle in 1982 when I transferred to the Northwest and Alaska Fisheries Science Center. I was appointed to the affiliate faculty soon thereafter. I lectured for Don Gunderson’s class on research survey methods and led some classes for the graduate seminar series, which introduced me to several graduate students. I served on graduate student committees while I was the director of the RACE Division. I also provided funds to cover tuition for NMFS/RACE biologists interested in graduate training to advance their quantitative skills. In addition, RACE funded university projects in support of graduate students on topics of interest to NMFS and particularly in support of the Fish Collection directed by Ted Pietsch. I am most proud of the fishery graduate students that we hired—in particular, two ichthyologists trained by Ted Pietsch (Jay Orr [PhD, 1995] and Duane Stevenson [PhD, 2002]). I was also instrumental in recruiting and funding John Horne to the School’s faculty to re-establish the fishery acoustics curriculum.

Jeff (MS, 1970; PhD, 1978) and Carol Fujioka, Gary and Diane, and Purita and Jerry (PhD, 1971) Wetherall in Hawaii in 2010.
Jeff (MS, 1970; PhD, 1978) and Carol Fujioka, Gary and Diane, and Purita and Jerry (PhD, 1971) Wetherall in Hawaii in 2010.

During my term as RACE director, Don Bevan was a faithful supporter of the NMFS budget at the congressional level, but never once did he suggest that we would need to contribute funding to the College in return. As a side note, a memory that I will honor forever was the day that I admitted my mother to University Hospital just behind Don as he was going in for his third heart bypass surgery. We had a short time to visit, but I unfortunately did not thank him for his years of support and contribution to my professional development and career. He passed away during the surgery.

My association with the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences and its predecessor, the College of Fisheries, has been 56 years in the making and has been at the center of just about every one of my major life-making decisions; I will be forever indebted to SAFS and its faculty, past and present.

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