SYMP 4-4 - Ecology with RT Paine: Exciting, fun and relevant

Tuesday, August 8, 2017: 9:40 AM
Portland Blrm 251, Oregon Convention Center
Jane Lubchenco, Integrative Biology, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR

I entered graduate school with a deep love of natural history but little respect for ecology as a discipline. I had come to UW to study physiology, not ecology. But because the graduate students in Zoology were all housed in multi-space offices, I was immediately exposed to a far different set of questions, approaches, and systems. I quickly discovered that the ecology I had learned previously was nothing like the exciting research underway by Bob Paine and his students. Spectacular rocky intertidal shores teaming with life and puzzles, and conducive to manipulation. Creative experiments, complex evolutionary context, boisterous arguments about the literature, data analysis and interpretation. I was quickly swept into the intellectual world created by RTP, much like a sneaker wave on the seashore picking me up unexpectedly and transporting me to an exciting new destination. Although the individual who generated this wave was an intimidating 6’6” tall and glowered menacingly, his students reassured me he was actually a warm, caring individual. Much to my delight, he welcomed me warmly and proved during my graduate years and for decades beyond to be a gifted advisor, thoughtful reviewer, intellectual compass, source of inspiration, staunch champion, and dear friend.


Bob Paine’s legacy includes not only his own rich array of ideas, findings and concepts, but also his pervasive influence on and inspiration of legions of collaborators, students, and their students. In the short time I was at UW (only one-fifth of my graduate career), RTP influenced me more profoundly than any other single individual, save my parents. He promoted a climate of intellectual rigor, profound respect for natural history, openness to new approaches or ideas, strong reliance on testing of ideas with field experiments, appreciation of theory, and joy in all of the above. Doing, talking, arguing science with Bob was always fun. But it was also connected to the real world, not some artificial construct. He understood the relevance of scientific knowledge to policy and management decisions. And he generously devoted time to bringing science to decision-makers, for example challenges of ensuring that salmon thrive and persist. He signaled to his students and colleagues that one His science is durable in part because it is real; because it is fun; because it is relevant. He gave us permission to not only pursue cutting edge science in creative ways but to use that science in ways that benefit society.