[MARMAM] In Memory of Jon Stern

Graham Worthy Graham.Worthy at ucf.edu
Mon Feb 20 18:15:10 PST 2017


Dr. S. Jonathan Stern, marine ecologist, whale biologist, Professor at San Francisco State University, and Jungle Stud, died on February 16, 2017. He had just turned 62 on February 2.
Jon grew up in San Rafael, California, did his undergraduate degree at Sonoma State University, his master's work at San Francisco State University, and his Ph.D. at Texas A&M University. He spent his first summer after his bachelor's degree working on the invertebrate display tanks at the University of Washington's Friday Harbor Labs (FHL) on San Juan Island. There, he also began his life's work studying minke whales at the Whale Museum in Friday Harbor. From that start, Jon became one of, if not the, leading expert on minke whales in the world. His work there was also the beginning of his regular sojourns to FHL for field work, scientific inquiry, and a love of Puget Sound, the islands, the labs, and especially minke whales.
In 2008, Jon made an important discovery in San Francisco Bay - after a complete absence of more than 60 years, harbor porpoises had returned to reoccupy the bay on a daily year-round basis. He considered this a good news environmental story that should be shared and studied. To that end, he co-founded Golden Gate Cetacean Research, a nonprofit organization devoted to conducting research on the cetaceans of the bay and the Northern California coast. Over the years, this work expanded to include studies of the local bottlenose dolphin population, and the recent phenomenon of humpback whales feeding in San Francisco Bay.
Talking science with Jon was all at once exhilarating, confusing, inspiring, and intensely thought provoking. Participating in his soft-spoken, but highly animated explanations of random walks, levy flights, mathematical models, and just the crazy gee-whiz, can-you-believe-this tidbits ("minke whale breath smells like broccoli!!!") were always an exercise in keeping up, asking questions, and experiencing the feeling that Jon would explain it 17 times if needed because he simply liked making sure you understood what he was talking about. Jon was always accessible, talking to any interested person, kids of all ages, budding undergraduate students, all the way to the most recognized names in our field. People naturally gravitated to Jon for his ideas, humor, understated grace, joy, and simple love of knowledge. He genuinely believed in those around him and was equally delighted when someone could explain a novel concept to him. He was a champion of his friends, colleagues, students, and those who wanted to learn, always complimenting, sharing enthusiastically, and openly generous with collaboration and resources.
Jon also had a deep love of music, an incredible collection of guitars, and enjoyed playing and singing with his band, The Jungle Studs. He loved his pug Robert (pronounced Ro-BARE), spoiling him like a child. He appreciated good food, extolling the virtues of a perfect crab cake. He admired beauty, keeping a picture of Linda Ronstadt on his desk, in an office adorned with Christmas lights.
Not only was Jon an excellent thinker, scientist, teacher, and mentor, but he was an amazing friend. If you knew Jon for more than about four minutes, you were his friend. He was incredibly kind, an amazingly warm, non-judgmental, and wise listener, and his unwavering faith and endless enthusiasm for those he cared about was uplifting to so many. Personal stories from those who shared a friendship with Jon run the gamut from hysterically funny, sad, touching, and serious. But the underlying threads to the stories are his loyalty, quiet but enthusiastic support, genuine care, laugh out loud humor, gentle understanding, and seemingly endless capacity to simply be there when you needed him.
Losing Jon leaves behind a very large hole, in the scientific world, the music realm, and in our hearts. He will be greatly missed and the meaningful ways in which he contributed to so many lives are truly an inspiration for how to live. We are forever and intensely grateful for the time we had with Jon and are so incredibly lucky to have shared his spirit, love, knowledge, enthusiasm, and friendship.
Family and friends of Jon's are in the process of setting up a memorial scholarship fund. Inquiries on how to contribute to this fund can be sent to Carolyn Kurle (ckurle at ucsd.edu<mailto:ckurle at ucsd.edu>).
Submitted in his memory by:
Leslie Cornick, William Keener, Carolyn Kurle, and Graham Worthy



_________________________________________________________________________

Graham A.J. Worthy, Ph.D.

Department Chair and Pegasus Professor,
Provost's Distinguished Research Professor of Biology,
Hubbs-Sea World Endowed Professor of Marine Mammalogy,
Director, Physiological Ecology and Bioenergetics Lab, and
Lead, Sustainable Coastal Systems Initiative

Department of Biology, University of Central Florida,
4110 Libra Dr., Room BIO302A
Orlando FL 32816-2368

Graham.Worthy at ucf.edu<mailto:Graham.Worthy at ucf.edu>
http://sciences.ucf.edu/biology/PEBL/
https://www.facebook.com/BiologyUCF

407-823-1333 office
skype: graham.worthy
_________________________________________________________________________

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