Grace Klein-MacPhee, Distinguished Naturalist 2002

Grace_PicThe Rhode Island Natural History Survey presented its Distinguished Naturalist Award to Grace Klein-MacPhee at the Survey’s 7th Annual Conference, “Ecological Research in Rhode Island: Snapshot — Where We Are Today,” on March 1, 2002, at Radisson Airport Hotel in Warwick. Klein-MacPhee was honored “for her contributions furthering knowledge of Rhode Island’s marine fish and her unique ability to culture marine fish larvae.” The following remarks were prepared by Candace Oviatt, University of Rhode Island (URI) oceanography professor and RINHS Board of Advisors member:

Grace Klein-MacPhee has had a career that sounds idyllic for a fish ecologist. She has spent her whole adult life out-of-doors, seining rivers, hauling nets from boats, and raising little fish in the laboratory. Grace specializes in the biology and ecology of flat fishes, especially winter and summer flounder, and in the early life history of Northwest Atlantic fishes.

As a scientist, Grace always has several difficult tasks to accomplish at once. Currently, she has three major projects: She is conducting an ichthyoplankton survey with the R.I. Department of Environmental Management in Narragansett Bay. This survey will characterize larval fish species composition, abundance, and distribution, focusing particularly on commercially important species. She is also performing a fish seine survey in the Blackstone River for Ocean State Power, to see if the Blackstone River can once again become prime habitat for fish (last year she and her seine were almost washed away in the spring freshet). Finally, she has a study of the interactions between gelatinous zooplankton and early life stages of fishes in Narragansett Bay with Dr. Barbara Sullivan for Rhode Island Sea Grant, a project that will perhaps explain if the recent large abundances of jellyfish in early summer are causing the decline in larval fish.

For scholarship, Grace has been working with Bruce B. Collette from the NOAA/NMFS Systematics Laboratory in Washington, D.C., to revise the latest edition of the famous Bigelow and Schroeder’s Fishes of the Gulf of Maine. This book will be published in June 2002. For teaching, she offers a Human Anatomy course at the Community College of Rhode Island. For any day in her life, “rest” is not part of the vocabulary!

Aspiring students and impressed colleagues may wonder how anyone could get in the position to be involved in so much. Grace grew up in Andover, Mass. She received her bachelor and master of art degrees in biology from Boston University in 1961 and 1966, respectively. For many years, during her employment at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the Narragansett, R.I., laboratory, she attracted the attention of scientists for her outstanding ability to raise larval winter flounder. Still not satisfied with her credentials, she went on to receive her Ph.D. from URI in biological sciences in 1978. At URI she studied with the well-known fish population ecologist, Dr. Saul B. Saila. A couple of years after graduation she worked at the University of Alaska-Juneau fisheries department, where she spent an enjoyable two years trawling the waters of Auke Bay, Alaska. Since the mid-1980s she has worked at the URI Graduate School of Oceanography as a Marine Research Scientist. She also serves as an Adjunct Professor in URI’s fisheries, animal and veterinary science department.

Grace’s life is her work, as her professional affiliations demonstrate. She is a member of the American Fisheries Society, the Fisheries Society of the British Isles, the Estuarine Research Federation, and the Rhode Island Natural History Survey. Grace loves the out-of-doors. She loves to go to sea, whether on Narragansett Bay or offshore to Georges Bank or the Gulf of Maine. She enjoys canoeing the Blackstone River. She always has a student intern with her in her work and enjoys student interactions on many levels. She works with high school students and college undergraduates, and serves on numerous graduate student committees. Grace has worked very hard to have a life doing what she loves. She is our heroine scientist.