[MARMAM] Idelisa Bonnelley (1931-2022)

Phil Clapham phillip.clapham at gmail.com
Fri Jul 22 21:22:39 PDT 2022

It is with great sadness that we must report the death of Idelisa Bonnely
de Calventi, the founder of marine biology in the Dominican Republic and
the driving force behind much of that country’s marine mammal research.

Idelisa Bonnelly de Calventi was born in the Dominican Republic in
September 1931.  Her fascination with marine biology was hindered by the
lack of any relevant academic programs in her home country, so at the age
of 22 she enrolled at Columbia University, graduating with a Bachelor of
Science in marine biology three years later; a Masters degree followed in
1961.  The following year, Bonnelly returned to the Dominican Republic,
where she taught the first courses in marine science at the Autonomous
University of Santo Domingo.  In 1966, she founded the Centro de
Investigación de Biología Marina (CIBIMA), which became that nation’s
leading institution in the field; she also established the Dominican
Academy of Sciences in 1974.

Idelisa was the recipient of numerous honors, both national and
international.  These included the Global 500 Roll of Honor of the United
Nations Environment Programme, the Marie Curie Medal from UNESCO, and
recognition as one of the ten most important women scientists in Latin
America.  She published extensively, and her work has been widely
acknowledged as being influential for those working with the management and
conservation of marine resources.

In 1986, the Dominican Republic established the first humpback whale
sanctuary in the world, focused on the North Atlantic’s largest breeding
ground on Silver Bank (Banco de la Plata); Bonnelly was the initiator and
primary driver behind this pioneering conservation action.  The sanctuary
has since been expanded to include other areas and additional marine mammal

Those of us who had the privilege to work with this remarkable woman knew
her not only for her considerable intellect and indefatigable drive, but
also for her kindness, her wonderful sense of humor and her tremendous
warmth.  She was a generous hostess, and every meeting with her involved
laughter; she was the kind of person who would always send you away smiling.

Idelisa Bonnelly died on July 3rd of this year, aged 90, leaving behind a
legacy of achievements in conservation and science that few can match.  She
will be greatly missed.

Phillip J. Clapham, Ph.D.
Seastar Scientific Inc.
Vashon Island, WA
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