Grace Klein-MacPhee, 2002 Distinguished Naturalist

…for her contributions furthering knowledge of Rhode Island’s marine fish and her unique ability to culture marine fish larvae.

Grace Klein-MacPhee

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 in Narragansett Bay with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. 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 study that will perhaps explain if the the recent, early summer, large abundances of jellyfish 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 Schroeders’ 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, Massachusetts. She received her Bachelors and Masters of Art in Biology from Boston University in 1961 and 1966, respectively. For many years, during her employment at the Environmental Protection Agency in the Narragansett, Rhode Island 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 the University of Rhode Island in Biological Sciences in 1978. At the University 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 Graduate School of Oceanography of the University of Rhode Island as a Marine Research Scientist. She also serves as an Adjunct Professor in the Fisheries, Aquaculture and Veterinary Sciences Department of the University of Rhode Island.

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, 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.

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