Recipients of the Timothy R. Parsons Medal


Dr. Roger François

On May 31, 2016 at the annual congress of the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society in Fredericton, the 2016 Parsons Medal for excellence in multidisciplinary ocean sciences from Fisheries and Oceans Canada was presented by Keith Lennon, Director of the Ocean Science Branch at Fisheries and Oceans to this year’s recipient, Dr. Roger François.

Dr. Roger François is a professor with the Department of Earth & Ocean Sciences at the University of British Columbia. He began his career at the Ecole Superieure des Textiles in Tournai, Belgium, where he earned a degree as a textile engineer. He then attended the University of Southampton in the UK to pursue a Master’s Degree in Oceanography, followed by a PhD in Oceanography at the University of British Columbia.

Dr. François continued his career through a series of Post-Doctoral and Scientists positions at the University of New Hampshire and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, in the USA. He has spent the last 11 years tirelessly pursuing his diverse body of research at the University of British Columbia and is internationally recognized for his ground-breaking research and leadership in marine geochemistry.

Dr. François been responsible for conceptual advances in our understanding of light stable isotope systematics for tracking algal production and nutrient cycling in the ocean, which has led to new ways of estimating historical changes in water column stratification. He also pioneered the development of radiochemical methods for estimating the true vertical fluxes of materials on the ocean floor and past rates of the ocean's overturning circulation, which has opened up new approaches to the study of palaeoceanographic and palaeoclimatic changes. This work has been critical in understanding the evolution of the global carbon system.

Dr. François published nearly 100 articles, 25 of which have more than 100 citations. He has already won one of the most prestigious international awards in the field of marine geosciences, the A.G. Huntsman Award in 2008.

It is without a doubt that as this year’s 2016 Parsons Medal recipient, Dr. François has made significant contributions to ocean sciences, both in Canada and beyond to the international community.

  • 2015

    Dr. Christopher Harley

    The recipient of the 2015 Timothy R. Parsons Medal is Dr. Christopher Harley for his work combining eco-physiological work in the laboratory with long-term monitoring and ecological experiments in the field to understand how various aspects of global change, alone and in combination, affect the ways in which species interact with one another and ultimately influence the distribution and abundance of marine plants and animals. The aspects of change he investigates include global warming, ocean acidification, and invasive species, which all threaten natural ecosystems and the benefits that they provide. Dr. Harley's work in establishing the importance of species interactions and multiple stressors in climate change effects on species and communities, and his mentorship of students was also recognized with this award. The award was presented by Carmel Lowe, Regional Director (Pacific), Science, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) at a luncheon during the CMOS congress in Whistler, BC.

  • 2014

    Dr. Paul J. Harrison

    On June 3, 2014 at the annual congress of the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society in Rimouski, the 2014 Parsons Medal for excellence in multidisciplinary ocean sciences from Fisheries and Oceans Canada was announced by Denis Hains, Director-General of Canadian Hydrographic Service and Ocean Science. Dr. Paul J. Harrison, Professor Emeritus at UBC, was this year's recipient. Unfortunately, Dr. Harrison was not able to attend and the medal was awarded at a special ceremony in his honor on October 15, 2014 in Vancouver British Columbia.

    The Timothy R. Parsons Medal was established by Fisheries and Oceans Canada to recognize achievement in ocean sciences. It honours the outstanding contributions of Dr. Timothy R. Parsons to the field of ocean sciences, who was the first recipient of the medal. It is awarded for:

    distinguished accomplishments in multidisciplinary facets of ocean sciences while working for Canadian Institutions or for the benefit of Canadian science. excellence during the lifetime of the recipient or for a recent outstanding achievement, both being equally eligible.

    Dr. Harrison received his Bachelor's degree in General Science from the University of Toronto, a Master's degree in Botany and Ecology from Guelph, and a Ph.D. in Biological Oceanography from the University of Washington in Seattle. From 1975 to 2002, Dr. Harrison was a Professor at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, and from 2002 to 2010 he was the Director of the Atmospheric & Marine Science Program at the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology.

    A specialist of phytoplankton ecology and physiology, Dr. Harrison has authored and co-authored over 300 refereed publications on subjects ranging from the physiological ecology of marine algae to nutrient uptake and assimilation by phytoplankton and seaweeds. His work has been cited over 16,000 times in scientific publications, with almost 6,000 citations since 2009. He has also written 3 textbooks.

    Dr. Harrison is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, has won awards for his teaching and international awards for his research. He has also been a Principle Investigator on 3 large multi-disciplinary Canadian programs: JGOFS, GLOBEC, and SOLAS. He has assumed leadership roles as the President of the Western Canadian University Marine Biology Society, and the Board of Directors for the National Research Council and Venus and Neptune Networks.

    Numerous letters of support were received from both across Canada and abroad, which highlight a variety of reasons why Dr. Harrison is highly deserving of this award. They spoke of his work on numerous committees across the world, the number of students that he has supervised throughout his career, and the editorial responsibilities which he has assumed over the years. Three separate letters noted that one of Dr. Harrison's key contributions are his laboratory cultures that form the groundwork of our understanding of the photosynthesis, nutrient uptake, growth, sinking and competition of phytoplankton in nature, and how difficult these are to perform - his lab, for example, is one of the few capable of growing key oceanic species that exhibit Fe limitation. They also noted that he went beyond the lab, designing observations and experiments in the field to complement his findings. Another letter discussed how Dr. Harrison just "knows bugs"; which should be considered the highest level of praise to understand how it all fits together, from oceanographic forcing to physiological and biochemical mechanisms.

  • 2013

    Paul Snelgrove

    The 2013 Parsons Medal in Multidisciplinary Ocean Science was presented to Dr. Paul Snelgrove, Professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland, at the annual congress of the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan on May 28, 2013 by David Gillis, Acting Director General of Ecosystem Science of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

    A specialist of marine ecology, Dr. Snelgrove has authored and co-authored over 100 scientific papers on subjects ranging from marine community ecology to hydrodynamic effects on communities and populations, to biodiversity, to disturbance and anthropogenic impacts. His work has been cited over 2100 times in scientific publications, with an average total citation of 76 times per year.

    A full professor at Memorial University in Newfoundland, he is a tireless promoter of a multi-disciplinary and cross-sector approach to ecosystem-level concerns. He holds the Canada Research Chair in Boreal and Cold Oceans Systems, which focuses on the role of larval transport, behaviour, and mortality in regulating benthic populations and communities in marine sediments and fishes, how different forms of disturbance regulate patterns of biodiversity in marine sediments, and the role of biodiversity in the delivery of key ecosystem services in sediments.

    Dr. Snelgrove is the Network Director for the Canadian Healthy Oceans Network (CHONe), a network of over 65 scientists and 100 students from 14 universities, DFO, and seven other government laboratories, which focuses on biodiversity science for the sustainability of Canada’s three oceans. In addition, he has headed several other initiatives in the development of interdisciplinary science regionally, nationally, and internationally.

    Dr. Snelgrove is recognized internationally as a leader for his work in the Census of Marine Life, for which he was chair of the Synthesis Group and a member of the Scientific Steering Committee. He wrote “Discoveries of the Census of Marine Life: Making Ocean Life Count”, the book that summarised key results of the program, integrating the work of some 2700 researchers from more than 80 nations which has fundamentally changed how scientists view marine biodiversity and greatly improved our understanding of ocean ecosystems. As a result of this work, Dr. Snelgrove was invited to give a TED talk which has been seen by over 170,000 people.

    Dr. Snelgrove continues to play a leading role in the international effort to identify how to fill the remaining gaps in our knowledge of marine diversity. Most recently, he has contributed to the improvement of Canadian ocean science programs as a core member of the Canadian Council of Academies’ review of Ocean Science Research Needs and Priorities for Canada. He has been invited to serve on numerous national and international review panels that consider science funding priorities, such as the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the European Commission and European Science Foundation, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the United States.

    He currently sits on the editorial boards of five journals, including Marine Ecology and Endangered Species Research. Besides his research output and his leading and managing of large research programs, he remains dedicated and supportive of young scientists and technicians. He continues to teach graduate and undergraduate courses every year, something not required of a Canada Research Chair.

  • 2012

    Dr. Louis Fortier

    A specialist of zooplankton and fish, Louis Fortier has authored and co-authored over 90 scientific papers on subjects from carbon fluxes in the Arctic Ocean to policy in a changing Arctic, and is a tireless promoter of a multi-disciplinary and cross-sector approach to the ecosystem-level concerns raised by a warming of the Arctic. Dr. Fortier was nominated for his incredible contribution to international collaboration and mentoring interdisciplinary scientists, including through ArcticNet; work that has contributed significantly to the further development of multidisciplinary ocean science.

    Dr. Fortier is the scientific director of ArcticNet, a Canadian Network of Centres of Excellence that brings together specialists from 27 universities for integrated study of the transformation of the coastal Canadian Arctic, which has made such an outstanding contribution to the careers of many scientists and to our understanding of the Arctic. Currently, in addition to his position as a professor at the Université Laval, Dr. Fortier holds the Canada Research Chair on the Response of Arctic Marine Ecosystems to Climate Change and is the project leader for the CFI-funded Canadian Research Icebreaker Amundsen.

    Dr. Fortier received his B.Sc. and M.Sc. from the Université Laval in 1976 and 1979, respectively. In 1983 he received his Ph.D. from the University of Manitoba.

  • 2011

    Dr. Curtis Suttle

    At the annual congress of the Canadian Meterological and Oceanographic Society, on June 7, Dr. Siddika Mithani presented the 2011 Parsons Medal in Multidisciplinary Ocean Science from Fisheries and Oceans Canada to Dr. Curtis A. Suttle, Associate Dean of Science at the University of British Columbia. Dr. Suttle's groundbreaking research on marine viruses is work that has contributed significantly to the further development of multidisciplinary ocean science.

    Dr. Suttle's research has demonstrated that viruses, as mortality agents of marine primary producers, have significant implications for the pathways of nutrient and energy flow in the ocean. These findings have had significant implications for many other ocean science disciplines.

    In addition to the Parson's Medal, Dr. Suttle's many distinguished honours acknowledging his contributions to science, include being named the Zheng Zhong Distinguished Visiting Fellow, Xiamen University, China, 2010; the A.G. Huntsman Award for Excellence in Marine Science, 2010; Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, 2008; and Fellow of The Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, Program in Integrated Microbial Biodiversity, 2007.

    Dr. Suttle received his B.Sc. in Zoology (with honours) from the University of British Columbia in 1978. In 1987 he received his PhD in Botany, also from the University of British Columbia. He has made significant contributions at a number of institutions. Over the years, his career has taken him to: the University of Washington, the Brookhaven National Laboratory, the State University of New York at Stony Brook, Duke University, the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Constance, in Germany.

  • 2010

    Dr. Brian Petrie

    Dr. Brian Petrie is the 2010 recipient of the Timothy R. Parsons Medal for Excellence in Multidisciplinary Ocean Sciences. The award was announced by Dr. Savithri Narayanan, the Director General of Ocean Sciences - Canadian Hydrographic Service, in Ottawa at the 2010 CMOS-CGU Annual Meeting.

    Brian is noted for his extensive contributions to multidisciplinary ocean research with 35 years of service with Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Brian joined DFO in 1975 in the Marine Ecology Laboratory at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography. One of his first major services to the scientific community and province at large was his research associated with the Halifax Harbour Task Force. His model-based scenarios built on observations were the quantitative foundation for its recommendations and this body of research set a new standard for sewage modeling by incorporating a broad suite of variables beyond bacterial counts. Based on his unique blend of field and theoretical experience in physical oceanography and environmental monitoring, it was only natural that Brain was a key contributor in the design of DFO's Atlantic Zone Monitoring Program (AZMP).

    Dr. Petrie has received numerous medals for his scientific contributions. These medals include the J.P. Tully Medal, awarded by the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society "for his collaborative, multidisciplinary research, and his sustained leadership to the description, understanding and implications of physical oceanographic variability in the Atlantic Canadian coastal ocean in 2004; and the Deputy Minister's Prix d'Excellence on two separate occasions.

    Dr. Petrie joins a distinguished group of scientists with the addition of the Timothy R Parsons Medal. Congratulations Dr Petrie!

  • 2009

    Dr. Richard Thomson

    On behalf of Wendy Watson-Wright, Assistant Deputy Minister for Science of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), Faith Scattolon, DFO Regional Director General, Maritimes Region presented the Timothy R. Parsons Award to Dr. Richard Thomson. The award was made at the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society 2009 Congress in Halifax, NS. Dr. Thomson received the award for his extensive contributions to multidisciplinary ocean research over more than 35 years of service with Fisheries and Oceans.

    Dr. Thomson is a prolific writer with more than 170 publications in primary peer-reviewed journals, two books - the best-selling "Oceanography of the British Columbia Coast" published in 1981 and the internationally acclaimed "Data Analysis Methods in Physical Oceanography" coauthored with Bill Emery in 1998 (revised in 2001), and countless reports. Throughout his eclectic career, there are several recurring themes:

    • a desire to communicate the results of his research through highly respected national and international journals;
    • the need to understand the bio-physical processes of hydrothermal venting regions of the world ocean, including Endeavour Ridge in the northeast Pacific - Canada's first Marine Protected Area;
    • a long-term interest in the generation and propagation of tsunamis generated by both earthquakes and submarine slides, including the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004;
    • a career-long effort to understand the ecosystem dynamics of the west coast of North America, including the paleoclimate of the region based on sediment cores from anoxic basins; and
    • the championing of Operational Oceanography for the prediction of storm surges and climate-induced sea level rise.

    Dr. Thomson has also found time to motivate and mentor other scientists, students, and support staff to contribute synergistically to multidisciplinary research activities in Canada's ocean science community. Rick's contributions, ideas, publications, and leadership are evident through his body of research, activities and regulatory contributions in Canada.

  • 2008

    Dr. Donald C. Gordon Jr.

    Dr. Donald C. Gordon is the 2008 recipient of the Timothy R. Parsons Medal for Excellence in Multidisciplinary Ocean Sciences. In a research career spanning 35 years at Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and in his retirement, Dr. Gordon has authored over 65 primary publications and close to 100 interpretive scientific reports and popular articles. He has had an important influence on government policy and regulation with respect to the protection and ecosystem-based management of Canadian ocean resources. He has influenced the assessment and regulation of offshore oil and gas development on the east coast, provided the scientific basis for fisheries closures to protect coral communities, spearheaded the inclusion of habitat issues into fisheries management plans, and provided the baseline information on benthic habitats necessary for the development of integrated management plans for the Scotian Shelf.

    Dr. Gordon joined DFO in 1970 and immediately demonstrated strong science leadership skills and a holistic approach to problem solving on oil spills and their impact on the ocean and coastal environments on the Atlantic coast of Canada. He worked hard to clarify the science for regulators and much of his work from that era is used as standard method references today. He reached out to the community and industry, initiating a workshop that grew into an annual Atlantic Regional workshop with international participation.

    He next turned the holistic approach to the study of tidal power in the Bay of Fundy. Extracting energy from tidal power became a focus in the late 1970s due to the increasing price of crude oil. Dr. Gordon tackled the problem of predicting the ecological impacts of tidal power development in this macrotidal coastal area. Following consultations, he assembled a multidisciplinary team of scientists from DFO, Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), Environment Canada, and universities including Dalhousie, Acadia, Mount Allison and the University of New Brunswick which conducted field studies in the intertidal and sub-tidal regions of Cumberland and Minas Basins. The research encompassed the full range of ecosystem functions from primary production to nutrient and ice dynamics. He spearheaded collaboration with Dutch and British scientists to apply ecosystem modelling for the direction of research and the holistic interpretation of research studies. He co-authored substantial ecosystem-level reviews of our knowledge base and ability to predict impacts. At the end of the extensive field program, data analysis, and publication of results, he chaired a regional workshop that reviewed the relevant research and provided a synopsis of the scientific understanding of the potential consequences of tidal power development in the upper reaches of the Bay of Fundy. The ecosystem approach to this research was novel at the time but is presently considered essential to the provision of sound scientific advice on the management of human activities in our oceans.

    In the late 1980s, Dr. Gordon provided scientific advice on the potential impacts of proposed oil drilling activity on Georges Bank. He assembled a multidisciplinary scientific team that prepared an influential report reviewing the state of knowledge of the Georges Bank ecosystem and how it might interact with the various activities associated with exploratory drilling. Subsequently, a 10-year moratorium was placed on oil exploration on Georges Bank and special funding was provided to support research to fill some of the critical knowledge gaps identified by the science review.

    After several years managing science programmes, Dr. Gordon returned to research in the early 1990's and the growing concern for the impact of mobile fishing gear on benthic communities. Again Dr. Gordon assembled scientists from within DFO and NRCan to tackle this difficult research problem and developed a novel approach to sampling the bottom using a combination of video and still photography, grab samples, acoustic sampling and directed trawling. Analysis of the data required the development of custom software to manage and analyse this complex array of geo-referenced information. The results of this research have made a major contribution to Canada's policy on the regulation of benthic trawl fisheries. A minor diversion to this work was the first directed mapping of cold water corals on the Atlantic coast of Canada. This quickly led to fishing closure areas being established to protect this essential fish habitat.

    Having made a significant contribution to the global debate on the impacts of trawling, Dr. Gordon's team turned their attention to the related, but more difficult problem of defining essential fish habitat on the Scotian Shelf. This work is on-going, using many of the techniques developed for the trawling impacts studies and adding a third dimension, fish activity and physical and chemical characteristics of the overlying water. The goal is to be able to predict fish community structure and abundance based on knowledge the biotic and abiotic habitat. This has been the subject of a series of regional workshops to classify the benthic communities of the Scotian Shelf and provide fisheries and oceans managers with guidance on the use of this classification system. Such knowledge will be critical to providing advice for an ecosystem-based approach to the management of ocean activities.

    Perhaps Dr. Gordon's greatest contribution has been his influence in motivating, mentoring, and providing leadership to other scientists, support staff and students to contribute synergistically to multidisciplinary research. He repeatedly demonstrated the value of the holistic approach includes not only all scientific aspects of the problem but also engages all stakeholders throughout the process.

    Congratulations Don Gordon!

  • 2007

    Dr. Carl J. Walters

    Dr. Carl J. Walters is the 2007 recipient of the Timothy R. Parsons Medal for excellence in multidisciplinary ocean sciences. Equal parts ecologist and mathematician, Dr. Walters has tested new ecological theories and practices and a new management approach using advanced computer-based systems that he has helped devise, and which have become central to the expanding multidisciplinary field of aquatic and oceanic environmental science.

    Dr. Walters is viewed as the originator of Adaptive Management Theory and Practice. It represents a revolution in statistical, mathematical and empirical study of complex dynamic systems. His approach spawned Ecosim, a modeling framework to predict ecosystem changes in response to fishing and marine environmental changes that is in use around the world.

    He has tested his work in marine case studies on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, the Florida Everglades and the sockeye salmon fishery of the Fraser River, British Columbia, among others. He has worked to predict trophic interaction patterns in aquatic ecosystems, now widely known as "foraging arena theory", and contributed to the theory and practice of stock assessment.

    He has been on the faculty of the University of British Columbia (UBC) since 1969 and was recently elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. In 2006 he and Drs. Daniel Pauly and Ray Hilborn, all of the UBC Fisheries Centre, were awarded the Volvo Environment Prize for "Outstanding innovations or discoveries scientific, socio-economic, or technological which have direct or indirect significance in the environmental field and are of global or regional importance".

  • 2006

    Dr. Ken Denman

    Dr. Ken Denman received the award in honour of his career-long contributions on the influence of physical processes on ocean productivity, and for pioneering integrated physical-chemical-biological oceanographic research. A tireless researcher with a wealth of original ideas, he has many influential publications to his name, notably landmark papers pioneering the study of physical/biological interactions in the lower foodweb and the coupling of climate systems with biogeological cycles. He is a renowned expert in modeling marine ecosystems and climate, with monumental contributions to climate change science through his identification of processes by which marine ecosystems respond to and feed back on climate. Dr. Denman is employed at both the Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis at the University of Victoria, and at the DFO Institute of Ocean Sciences in Sidney, B.C.

    Dr. Trevor Platt

    Dr. Trevor Platt received the award in honour of his outstanding contributions to the fields of biological oceanography and marine ecology, the thermodynamics of the open ocean ecosystem and an ecosystem approach to fisheries management. Dr. Platt is a leader in interdisciplinary oceanographic research, a pioneer of new quantitative methodologies and the use of satellite remote sensing data for measuring ocean processes. He is a prolific scientific author, with over 285 publications. He is a major influence internationally, serving with the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program, the Scientific Committee on Ocean Research, the Joint Global Ocean-Flux Study and the International Ocean Colour-Coordinating Group. Dr. Platt is employed at the DFO Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia and is an adjunct faculty member at Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS.

  • 2005

    Dr. Timothy R. Parsons

    The first award of the medal was to Dr. Timothy R. Parsons himself. For more on Dr. Parsons see About Dr. Timothy R. Parsons.

    Dr. Daniel Ware

    Dr. Daniel Ware was the second recipient of the Timothy R. Parsons Medal, in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the field of fisheries oceanography. Dr. Ware, who passed away just months after receiving the medal, was a nationally and internationally renowned fisheries scientist with a strong research and publication record in ecology-based multidisciplinary studies. Dr. Ware spent the first 10 years of his career at the Bedford Institute and the next 20 years at the Pacific Biological Station. In 1990, he was selected as the First Chair of the Science Board of the North Pacific Marine Science Organization (PICES). Dr. Ware was a pioneer in the investigation of the inter-relationships between fish stocks and physical environmental factors. He devoted himself to quantifying the effects of environmental variability on fish communities through a combination of field and modeling research. Throughout his career, Dr. Ware challenged conventional wisdom and produced influential papers that changed the way fisheries scientists and managers view the world.

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