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The End of an Era at the Kodiak Lab

photo of Dr. Robert Otto
Photo compliments of Bob Otto.

The end of an era came to pass with the retirement of Dr. Robert Otto in December 2005 after 32 years of government service. As longtime supervisor of the Kodiak Shellfish Assessment Program and Director of the Kodiak Laboratory, Bob oversaw the programís growth from a small stock assessment group to a multispecies research program. During that time, the program outgrew its location in a derelict WWII barracks and moved into a state-of-the-art marine research facility, the Kodiak Fisheries Research Center (KFRC). Bob was primarily responsible for liaison with architects and engineers during the design and construction of the KFRC.

Bob was born in Trenton, New Jersey, on 4 December 1946. He received primary education at the Newtown Friends School and secondary education at the George School, both in Newtown, Pennsylvania, where Bob lived as a child. He is a birthright member of the Society of Friends (Quakers). He received a B.S. degree in zoology from Pennsylvania State University (1968), an M.S. degree in zoology (1971) from the University of Maine and a Ph.D. in zoology from the University of Maine (1975). Bob married his wife Gail of Beaver, Pennsylvania, in August 1970.

Bob began work for NMFS as a research specialist in Washington, D.C., in 1974. In 1977 he began work in Kodiak as the leader of the Shellfish Assessment Group and became Director of the NMFS Kodiak Laboratory in 1984. Dr. Otto has served as a member of the International North Pacific Fisheries Commissionís King and Tanner crab Sub-Committee (1977-83), The North Pacific Fishery Management Councilís Plan Maintenance Team for Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands King and Tanner Crabs (1978-retirement) and the North Pacific Science Organization Working Group on Crabs and Shrimps (Cochairman, 1997-2001).

Published works include papers on population dynamics of Atlantic marlins, biology of king and Tanner crabs, king and Tanner crab fisheries and their management, efficiency of survey trawl nets, biology of Antarctic crabs near South Georgia Island, and chemical composition of forage fishes. Bob is a member of the American Fisheries Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

During his years in Kodiak, Bob rarely missed an opportunity to go out to sea. Never bothered by seasickness, he sought opportunities to go on cruises during seasons (January) and in locations (Antarctica) that most people would prefer to avoid. His curiosity and love of nature kept him out on deck many hours examining strange and interesting creatures. Bobís nearly encyclopedic knowledge of Alaskan marine life could easily overwhelm the casual listener, and everyone who went to sea with him came back much the richer in knowledge.

Friends and family held a retirement party for Bob at the Kodiak Elks Club on 11 December 2005 and presented him with a Sage fly rod. We expect to see him out on the rivers every day next summer and will be looking forward to tasting some of his home-made smoked salmon. Bob will maintain an office at the Kodiak Laboratory as a voluntary NMFS associate and plans to continue scientific work on crab biology and on improving the crab database. For the time being he can be contacted at the KFRC (907.481.1710).

By Brad Stevens


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