Friday, April 27, 2007

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Listen to the touching NPR story on Ransom Myers

In "Science out of the Box," NPR featured "a story of a scientist who earned an international reputation for thinking outside the box." Below are some notes but it is much better to listen to the 3/30/07 edition at or download it from itunes.

Ram ... was one of those guys who always stood out at scientific conferences ... partly it was the kids - he had five - and one or two always seem to be following him around at a meeting. But it was also ... his ability to instantly see the hole in any argument. Biologist Charles Peterson said, Ram "had a twinkle in his eye and good humor but his comments were always sharp and to the point..."

Ram's voice from a few years ago: "the amazing thing we found...changing fundamentally the world's ocean without really thinking about it and really understanding it." Those studies made Ram a hero of conservatism.

Ram once said that it was bit of a fluke that he ended up studying species. He grew up in rural Mississippi. His precocious talent for math and science cause problems at school.
Andy Rosenberg said that Ram told him that "when he was in high school, he came to an agreement with the teachers that they had taught him everything they could and it would be better if that just left him in the library to learn things for himself."

....As a grad student at Dal, Ram began using his mathematical talent to understand how the oceans work. Andy Rosenberg was at Dal then & remembered Ram "coming out of the elevator with a stream of paper behind him (from the old teletype sheets) and Ram said 'I had this idea and I've written it up' and it fragments of sentences, equations and graphs ...he walked down the hall with a paper stream behind of him... that was just so much Ram."

Ram was never shy about defending his work. At one public debate, he titled his power point presentation "I AM RIGHT." Andy Rosenberg was there and the memory brought tears.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

"We are fishing our oceans to death"

Margaret Wente writes, "Ransom Myers is not a household name. He should be. The Nova Scotia biologist, who died last week at 54, was called the best fish scientist in Canada. He was also a leading authority on the greatest environmental disaster of our time. It's too bad that global warming gets all the ink, because the danger documented by Prof. Myers is right here, right now. We are fishing out the seas. We don't have to wait for global warming to wipe out species, because we are doing it already. Prof. Myers found that in the past 50 to 100 years, we have fished out more than 90 per cent of the world's biggest predatory fish -- tuna, swordfish, marlin, cod, shark. Most of the ones that remain are much smaller than the ones your grandpa saw. If somebody rewrote The Old Man and the Sea today, the old man's adversary would probably be a minnow. Today, we don't fish the seas -- we mine them. Ocean-going supertrawlers drag the seas to depths of 600 metres, sucking up the last of the giant bluefin tuna, along with tonnes and tonnes of bycatch (waste fish for which there is no market). They fish out one area and then move on, leaving a virtual desert in their wake. Prof. Myers's warnings were not speculation. He based them on a hard slog through the data of ocean trawler records through the years. Back in 2003, he warned, "We've got to cut fishing by 50 per cent, and if it's not done, we're going to lose the pelagic [ocean-going] species." Last week, his final piece of research was published in the journal Science. It found that populations of some of the biggest shark species off the eastern coast of the United States had also plunged by 90 per cent or even more. "If you go to any reef around the world, except for those that are really protected, the sharks are gone," Dr Ranson Myers said........... "The collapse was all blamed on the environment, on the seals, on the foreigners, when it was primarily Canadians," he (Dr. Ransom Myers) said later. "I saw that as the big lie, blaming it on anything but ourselves." So why are the big sharks going the way of the cod? Blame consumer tastes -- in this case, the Asian craze for shark-fin soup, which is considered a tasty if expensive delicacy. Shark fins sell for hundreds of dollars a kilogram, and shark-fin soup for as much as $100 a bowl. In a practice known as finning, fishermen catch the sharks on the high seas, cut off their fins and throw the carcasses back. It's illegal, but the high seas aren't well policed. As many as 75 million sharks were finned last year, says research team member Julia Baum. It's not too late to save the big fish. Prof. Myers's research has helped to bring about important changes in fishing practices and technology. But nothing much will happen without international laws, internationally enforced. Call it a sort of test case for global warming. If the world's fishing nations can't get together to save the fish, there's no hope for a pact on greenhouse gases.
Meantime, watch out what you're eating from the sea. As someone who loves sushi, this breaks my heart. But it's the ethical thing to do."
MARGARET WENTE From Tuesday's Globe and Mail April 3, 2007 at 3:58 AM EST

Sunday, April 15, 2007

David Suzuki on Ransom Myers

"Dr. Ransom Myers was at the leading edge of conservation biology. He consistently strove to dig deeper and go further in the search for answers to pressing ecological issues. His efforts raised the public's understanding of the plight of our oceans, and he inspired a generation of marine biologists. His work will be sorely missed, and so will he. " h ttp://

Friday, April 13, 2007

Friday the 13th

Ram was born on Friday the 13th, 1952. A scientist is not superstitious. But the illiterate and uneducated often are superstitious. When we were growing up, we had a washing woman named Mary who was illiterate and superstitious. I remember Mary talking..."that Mister Randy...that Mister Randy.... he's done gonna blow up the whole town....don't that boy know he was born on Friday the 13th ......"

This is, perhaps, more indicative of the frozen place and time we grew up, rather than a reflection of Randy. The man who became Ram made his own luck, that is, until his Brain Cancer went undiagnosed (by the Candian govertment controlled health care system) until it was too late.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Ransom Myers' death a loss for science

Dr Ransom Myers "was indeed a distinguished scientist, an engaging public speaker and leading advocate for change. Sadly, we will now never know what else he may have accomplished. His death from a brain tumor, at just 54, came at the height of his scientific career and at a time when the world needs him most." The Review

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

See Sharkwater & Remember Dr. Ransom Myers

The documentary Sharkwater is a must see for all Fans of Dr. Ransom Myers....Fans of Dr. Boris Worm...Fans of Dr. (or soon to be Dr.) Julia Baum...and many others........

Monday, April 9, 2007

Ransom Myers: He told it like it was

Dr. Borris Worm on Ram: "There were so many instances when he would keep busy working on data and doing complicated analyses while sitting in a meeting or a conference and everybody would assume he’s not there at all and get annoyed and then, at a critical moment, he would have this absolutely brilliant statement. And everybody would be surprised that he could do that, but he just needed more than the average person to keep his brain occupied."

Saturday, April 7, 2007

the future Dr. Ransom Myers Easter 1967

Randy (the future Dr. Ransom Myers) with his older brother and younger sisters Joan and Susan G Myers in front of his childhood home in Lula, Mississppi on Easter morning 1967

Friday, April 6, 2007

Inspired by Ram

I have created a Facebook group called "Inspired by Ram". It may be one way for us to connect with old friends and remember Ram.

(By the way, as Wikipedia notes, Facebook is a social networking website.)

Why scientists like Ransom Myers & Julia Baum matter

The value of Dr. Ransom Myers (Ram)
The value of science, scientists and sharks by Jack Betts

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Ransom Myers, Scientist: 1952-2007

"Ram would get an idea.
He would gather all the relevant data in the world about it,
and he could put all these data sets together,
analyze them and
see what the pattern was." -- Julia Baum
Julia Baum on Ram, The Globe and Mail, Charles Mandel, April4, 2007.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Ransom Myers did see

Ransom Myers did see.
He saw
he thought
he studied,
from all of that,
he developed
of scientific knowledge
on the East Coast fishery
that can hardly be equalled.
excerpt from Editorial originally printed in The Telegram, St. Johns, Newfoundland

Monday, April 2, 2007

Ransom Myers solved "the major problem in fisheries science"

Daniel Pauly, who heads the Fisheries Center at the University of British Columbia, cited ... Myers' efforts to solve "the major problem in fisheries science," predicting in one season how many fish larvae will survive to young adulthood in the next. Scientists call this "the recruitment problem," difficult to solve because fish produce immense and highly variable numbers of larvae and because mortality is so high. Myers solved the problem, Pauly said, by assembling a large base of stock data and developing a complex mathematical model to sort it out. "Out of that came the conclusion that a female in general produced three to five recruits per year for most fish," Pauly said. "It is the definitive study." (Picuture of Ram with some of his Myers Lab Team taken in late summer of 2006)

Ransom A. Myers and the uses of fame

The following is an excerpt of an article by Bill Barker, King's College President and 20 year friend of Ram. The article appeared in the Halifax paper the day of Ram's memorial. The picture of Bill and myself was taking the morning after. "It was exciting to get to know someone who was so alive with a passion for research at the very highest level of his discipline, and who had so much curiosity and so many opinions on so many topics. He had a bracing energy, and every encounter gave me a bit of a jolt. He was one of those intellectuals for whom the work goes everywhere, and the mind never stops boiling over with observations and new ideas. I loved the boldness. Looking back, I have to say his nickname, though made up of his initials, was not an accident...Ram was, for a self-described "quantitative fishery population biologist," relatively famous...It’s interesting how all the comments on his life (mine included) mention Ram’s listing in Fortune – this is the way that you become famous for being famous. Ram clearly loved the notice, and enjoyed the ironies of this celebrity. But being in the spotlight helped his cause ....Ram was exceptional in the force of his message. If you want to see how he did this, one of the best places is his 2003 testimony to the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation (it’s on the web). Here Ram presents his advice on the decline of fish stocks. His summary of an ongoing massive meta-analysis of data from around the world clearly demonstrates the vastness of the ecological failure through overfishing. From this general view, he moves back to the particular to offer practical advice on the management and replenishment of specific stocks. The clarity, urgency and hope in his testimony are exemplary. He knew the value of publicity, of getting in the news. The Dalhousie web page devoted to his memory mentions that his work made the front page of The New York Times "above the fold." This, of course, is pure Ram, and all his friends will get the joke. He was delighted that he had appeared "above the fold" because he knew he had captured the ultimate piece of real estate in the world of print journalism. Many academics have important messages that should be heard by the public. Sometimes these messages are too nuanced or too obscure for public discourse, which is not terribly refined or precise. How to attain that knowledge transfer is a huge issue for universities and our research funding agencies, who want the public informed and the discoveries to be used. Most of us (I speak as a member of the public in relation to Ram’s research) don’t want to hear the details. For whatever reason, we can’t put in the effort or the time. We want the big picture. It’s difficult for an expert, who has struggled so carefully to tune the ideas, to enter into the rough and tumble world of the media. Now and then, however, there are academic experts who are able to maintain a sophisticated research agenda and who at the same time can translate the work into terms that can be quickly grasped by the general public. When their ideas get out there, they help to shape necessary public debate. This is important work, and deserves recognition. Ram was one of the masters." ---William Barker, President of the University of King’s College, The Chronical Hearld,

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Take a Hike in Memory of RAM!

Ram wanted his funeral to be a long hike. That wasn't practical. His wife has MS. And I am not much of an hiker myself (Being a southern bell, I packed head to toe in black for a funeral. I didnt' pack hiking clothes! ) But a hike along the shores and cliffs of the sea might do us all good. Maybe it would clear our heads. Maybe it would help us come to terms with our grief. So if you couldn't come today and if you are incline to take a hike, then take a long hike in memory of the man you knew, as Randy, or Ram, or Dr. Myers, or Papa, or that damn scientist. You will never meet another like him, so, TAKE A HIKE!