In memoriam - Steve Hay

We are deeply saddened to inform about the passing of our colleague Steve Hay.
Published: 9 July 2020

​Sophie Pitois and Lidia Yebra, on behalf of the ICES Working Group on Zooplankton Ecology (WGZE)

Steve Hay passed away surrounded by family on 25 June 2020 at the age of 70. Steve was one of Scotland's leading marine zooplankton ecologists. He joined the plankton section of the Marine Laboratory in Aberdeen in the late 1960s where, during the early part of his career, he worked on food web mesocosm experiments at Loch Ewe. 

Steve spent many years investigating the life history and ecology of Calanus finmarchicus with Mike Heath, initially through the EU funded programs “Investigation of Calanus finmarchicus migrations between Oceanic and Shelf seas off northwest Europe" (ICOS) and “Trans-Atlantic Study of Calanus" (TASC), and as part of the NERC “Marine Productivity" program.  He spent many Decembers on research cruises in the Faroe Shetland channel investigating the overwintering ecology of C. finmarchicus. Steve played an integral role establishing the long-term monitoring sites at Stonehaven and Loch Ewe, now key sites in the Scottish Coastal Observatory. Steve was also a mentor to many students and post docs who worked on plankton in the Marine Lab over the years and enjoyed sharing his knowledge of zooplankton taxonomy with the next generation of plankton scientists. 

Steve joined the Working Group on Zooplankton Ecology (WGZE) at its beginning in the early 1990s and was a strong contributor until his retirement, including serving as Chair in the early 2000s. In 2009, Steve proposed a new ICES Study Group on Integrated Morphological and Molecular Taxonomy (SGIMT) within WGZE, based on the precept that taxonomy is critical to successful understanding, assessment and management of the species diversity. Steve provided visionary leadership in proposing and promoting new molecular approaches to species identification, phylogeny, evolution, adaptive capacities, environmental sensitivities, and community diversity. These new developments, he argued, could revolutionize monitoring and study of marine species and ecosystems. In response to Steve's proposal, SGIMT (now WGIMT​) was approved, and ICES claimed an international leadership role in assessing zooplankton integrative taxonomic methods, information, and novel approaches.

In 2010, he was an active organizer of the workshop for the calibration of biochemical indices of growth and validation against somatic growth rates. Despite the lack of funding, WGZE continued pursuing this goal and, in 2017 the PICES WG37 “Zooplankton Production Methodologies, Applications and measurements in PICES regions" was created. He was also one of the first supporters on the idea to revive the ICES Leaflets for Plankton identification. One of his last contributions was the Review The ICES Working Group on Zooplankton Ecology: Accomplishments of the first 25 years (Wiebe et al., 2016,

Steve was a true seagoing marine scientist, he could fix everything with a duct-tape, paper-clip and a string and had developed his own brilliant solutions on how to best work on a ship in a rough seas. His design of Calanus egg counting filters is still in use. He was a source of information and experience on all aspects of zooplankton. He was always keen to help with identification of tricky species. There was an instance where Steve gave a jellyfish specimen, collected in Scotland, in a jar to one of our group members. Without any ethanol at hand, he had added an amount of his precious scotch whisky and the beast was perfectly preserved, so much so that they were able to successfully extract the DNA and publish a paper on it in Biology Letters.

After 42 years working on diverse studies of marine plankton he retired in 2011 and explored a more artistic side of himself as a part-time potter and sculptor. In his own words, “I am still interested in marine ecology… However, as an active member of the Scottish Potters Association, my new direction along with family commitments is taking up my time quite effectively and most enjoyably".

Steve was a great scientist and many of us remember him as being friendly, generous and very supportive when we first joined the group, and we feel privileged to have had the opportunity to work with him. Steve will certainly be missed, and his contributions remembered by the zooplankton community and beyond.

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Steve Hay during Stonehaven sampling with Bongo nets in 1999.​

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In memoriam - Steve Hay

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