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Riley Lecture

The Gordon A. Riley Memorial Lecture

This biennial lecture series was established in 1999 to honour the memory of the late Gordon A. Riley, Professor of Oceanography and Director of the Institute of Oceanography (now our Department of Oceanography).  Invited speakers are chosen and hosted by the Department of Oceanography Student Association (DOSA).

The Riley series is funded by a combination of research funds and the financial support of alumni and other friends of the Department of Oceanography.



Dr. Kathryn Sullivan
Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans & Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator

We are pleased to announce that the 16th Gordon A. Riley Memorial Lecture will take place this year on April 25th, 2016

This lecture series was established to honour the memory of the late Gordon A. Riley, Professor of Oceanography and Director of the Institute of Oceanography (now our Department of Oceanography).  Invited speakers are chosen and hosted by the Department of Oceanography Student Association (DOSA).

This year, our invited speaker will be Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, head of the National Oceans and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA) and Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere in the United States. 

Dr. Sullivan is a Dalhousie alumna. During her time at our institution, she obtained a PhD in Geology and participated in several oceanographic expeditions under the auspices of the U.S. Geological Survey, Wood's Hole Oceanographic Institute and the Bedford Institute. Dr. Sullivan is also a retired U.S. Naval Reserve captain and a veteran of three NASA shuttle missions. She is the first American woman to walk in space. As part of NOAA, she has played a central role in directing priority work in the area of climate science and services. She also provides agency-wide direction with regard to satellites, space weather, and ocean observations and forecasts to best serve communities and businesses.

The selection of Dr. Sullivan reflects the broad range and evolving nature of the​ interests of oceanography graduate students in our department. The Riley series is funded by a combination of research funds and the financial support of alumni and other friends of the Department Oceanography. DOSA gratefully acknowledges these contributions.


Monday April 25, 2016 - 03:00 PM


Kenneth Rowe Management Building, Room 1020

Past Riley Lectures have included:

2013 - Giovanni Coco

Giovanni Coco has an “Excellence Chair” at the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Cantabria where he is a member of Ocean and Coastal Research Group. He has obtained his PhD at Plymouth University and has subsequently worked at Scripps Institute of Oceanography (USA) and the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (New Zealand). His scientific activity is mainly related to coastal oceanography, coastal hazards and interactions between physical and biological processes. The approach is based on a mix of numerical modeling with field and laboratory observations.  More recently, he has focused on nonlinear techniques for data analysis (genetic algorithms, artificial neural networks) applying them to a variety of bio-geophysical problems. He has been PI in projects funded by national organizations in the USA, New Zealand and Spain. He is currently an Honorary Professor at the University of Waikato (New Zealand) and a member of the scientific committee of “River, Coastal and Estuarine Morphodynamics”.

2012 - Peter Franks

Prof. Peter J.S. Franks received his B.Sc. (Hons, 1st class) from Queen's University, where he did his honours thesis on parental investment in sparrows. With this sound training in marine sciences, he went to Dalhousie University where he received his M.Sc. Biological Oceanography in 1984, working with Dr. Joseph Wroblewski. In this work, he used a coupled physical-biological model to investigate how the frictional decay of a warm-core ring could affect phytoplankton production in the ring. He then entered the MIT/WHOI Joint Program where he received his Ph.D. in Biological Oceanography in 1990. His work with Dr. Donald Anderson showed that outbreaks of paralytic shellfish poisoning in the southwestern Gulf of Maine were advected there in a buoyant coastal current. Franks then moved to Oregon State University where he did a postdoc in Physical Oceanography with Dr. Leonard Walstad, using a coupled physical-biological model to investigate the effects of wind events on phytoplankton production at fronts. He joined the faculty of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 1992, and is now a Full Professor, and Director of the Integrative Oceanography Division. Franks studies physical-biological interactions in the plankton, using novel instruments in the field, and mathematical models. Franks is the author or co-author of over 70 papers covering spatial scales from sub-millimetre to entire ocean basins.

2012 - William Balch

Dr. Balch obtained his PhD from Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 1985. He is a biological oceanographer interested in the factors influencing the distribution of phytoplankton in space and in time, focusing on the coccolithophores, one of the most important sources of calcium carbonate on the planet. In order to answer his research questions, Dr. Balch and his team use a wide range of instrumentation and analytic techniques: traditional microscopy and water filtering, bio-optical measurements, satellite remote sensing, radio isotopes, as well as custom-designed instruments. His study areas encompass the equatorial Pacific, the Arabian Sea, the North Atlantic, the Patagonian Shelf, and the Gulf of Maine. His current focus is on ocean acidification. Dr. Balch has published 76 journal articles (39 of which as a first author). He participates on research cruises all over the world. His interests extend beyond oceanography, as he is also a jazz musician.

2010 - Carl Wunsch

Carl Wunsch is a Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physical Oceanography at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He holds a bachelors degree in mathematics and a PhD in geophysics, both from MIT. He has worked on many aspects of physical oceanography and its climate implications, with emphasis on global-scale, including satellites and acoustic tomographic methods.

He was an organizer of the World Ocean Circulation Experiment, chaired the science committees leading to the flight of altimetric satellites, and is deeply involved in the analysis of the results including the use of general circulation models. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a foreign member of the Royal Society of London, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, American Philosophical Society, American Geophysical Union and American Meteorological Society and has received numerous awards. He is also the author or co-author of about 225 scientific papers and four books.

2009 - Timothy Parsons

Dr. Parsons’ oceanographic experience includes four decades of research while working for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the University of British Columbia, and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. He has specialized in marine pelagic ecosystems, fisheries oceanography and the effect of human impacts on ocean systems, and has published over 150 papers in his field.  Dr. Parsons is the joint author of several books on methods for seawater analysis and on biological oceanography, in addition to having written a memoir of his life entitled “The Sea’s Enthrall”. He organized and participated in the first Canadian trans-Pacific research cruise which then gave rise to research from commercial vessels in the Pacific. He also initiated the fertilization of a large sockeye salmon lake which resulted in an increased return of adult fish. He has taken part in the organization and activities of mesocosm experiments in which large quantities of seawater were isolated to study impacts on the ecology of pelagic systems. His studies have also included programs in the Canadian Arctic and co-operative programs with American, Japanese and Chinese scientists.

2008 - John Largier

John Largier is Professor of Coastal Oceanography at the University of California Davis (UCD), resident at Bodega Marine Laboratory. Prior to 2004, he was a Research Oceanographer at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. He has also held positions at the University of Cape Town and the National Research Institute for Oceanology (CSIR) in South Africa.

His research, teaching and public service is motivated by contemporary environmental issues and centered on the role of transport in ocean, bay, nearshore and estuarine waters. His work has addressed transport of plankton, larvae, contaminants, pathogens, heat, salt, nutrients, dissolved oxygen, and sediment. He places this work in the context of issues as diverse as marine reserves, fisheries, mariculture, beach pollution, wastewater discharge, wildlife health, desalination, river plumes, coastal power plants, kelp forests, wetlands, marine mining, coastal zone management and impacts of coastal development. At UCD he heads the 16-person Coastal Oceanography Group. Dr Largier is a leader in developing the field of environmental oceanography through linking traditional oceanographic study to critical environmental issues.

Dr Largier serves on the Science Advisory Team for the California Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA), the Governing Council for CeNCOOS (Central and Northern California Ocean Observing System), the Sanctuary Advisory Committee for the Gulf of Farallones, and several other advisory boards. He is president of the California Estuarine Research Society. In 2002-2004, Dr Largier played a significant role in advising the state on beach pollution and in the late 1990’s, he played a key role in developing the knowledge foundation for the new coastal zone management policy in South Africa. He is an Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellow. Following undergraduate studies in Maths and Physics, he obtained a Ph.D. in Oceanography from the University of Cape Town (South Africa) in 1987.

2007 - Lisa Levin

Dr. Levin never stopped playing in the mud.

She digs, probes, and sieves to explore the ecology of invertebrate communities inhabiting muddy sedimentsin ecosystems ranging from the deep sea to intertidal salt marshes.
Of particular interest is community response to stress: natural hypoxia on continental margins, sulfides at methane seeps, and organic enrichment in wetlands. Another favorite theme is the significance of invertebrate life histories for population dynamics, connectivity, and disturbance recovery. Polychaetes and giant protozoans (xenophyophores) are among her favorite study organisms.

Her fascination with marine life began at the age of 16, during an NSF-sponsored summer course at Humboldt State  University. Nurtured and inspired by pivotal biology instructors in high school and college, the decision to become a biologist was easy. After graduate school at Scripps Institution of Oceanography (UCSD) and a postdoc at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, she spent her early academic career at North Carolina State
University. In 1992 she returned to UCSD.

2006 - Mimi Koehl

Mimi Koehl holds the Gill Professorship in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley. Her research focuses on the physics of how marine organisms interact with the water moving around them. She earned her Ph.D. in Zoology from Duke University, and did postdoctoral work at Friday Harbor Laboratories, University of Washington, and at the University of York, UK. She was on the faculty at Brown University before moving to Berkeley. She has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences (USA), and to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is the recipient of the Borelli Award (American Society of Biomechanics, for "outstanding career accomplishment and exemplary contributions to the field of biomechanics"), a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship Award (commonly known as MacArthur "genius grants"), a Presidential Young Investigator Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Distinguished Alumni Award from Gettysburg College, and the Rachel Carson Lectureship (American Geophysical Union). She is one of ten scientists chosen by the National Academy of Sciences to be profiled in a series of books for children, "Women's Adventures in Science".

2004 - David Farmer

David Farmer is the Dean at the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island.  Prior to this appointment he was an oceanographer at the Institute of Ocean Sciences in Sidney, British Columbia, Canada and continues to hold emeritus status with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Dr. Farmer has been involved in various international activities. He was a visiting fellow in Australia with both the CSIRO institute in Hobart and the University of Western Australia Center for Water Research which have led to student exchanges in both directions. In China he has ties to the Institute of Acoustics & Others which led to his selection of Ph.D. students from China. In Japan he is associated with Japanese Marine Acoustics Society & JAMSTEC following an invitation to be a lecturer for the Japanese Marine Acoustics Society. This is just a taste of his international associations. He has also been involved with groups from South Korea, Turkey, Russia, The United States of America, Singapore, India, Denmark, Norway, Gilbralter and Mexico. Through his associations all over the world, he has generated much collaboration and exchange of students and knowledge.  He has been involved with governments in Canada and the US to help form policy concerning the future of the oceans.

Together with his colleagues and graduate students he seeks new insights on ocean processes through innovative measurement and analysis. In upper ocean physics his interests include surface waves and wave breaking, near surface circulation, and the processes contributing to vertical transport of heat, mass and momentum; in coastal waters, he studies stratified flows over topography, exchange flows and internal hydraulics, tidal fronts and mixing. He has a particular interest in the application of acoustical techniques to ocean research and has explored their use in topics ranging from the measurement of ocean surface bubbles to the fracturing of sea ice.

2003 - Curtis D. Mobley

Dr. Curtis Mobley graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with Highest Honors in Physics, and he received his Ph.D. in Meteorology in 1977 from the University of Maryland. During his career he has been a Fulbright Fellow to the Federal Republic of Germany, and National Research Council Resident Research Associate at the NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Lab in Seattle, Washington and at the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California. He has worked at the University of Washington and SRI International, and he was Program Manager of the Ocean Optics (now Environmental Optics) Program at the Office of Naval Research. Since 1996 he has been Vice President and Senior Scientist at Sequoia Scientific, Inc. in Bellevue, Washington.

His primary research interests are in optical oceanography and radiative transfer theory. He is best known for his Hydrolight software and for the text Light and Water. His current research centers on use of hyperspectral imagery to extract environmental information in shallow waters, and on development of coupled physical-biological-optical ecosystem models. This work will be discussed in his Riley lecture.

2002 - Sallie W. Chisholm

Sallie W. Chisholm has been a professor of engineering at MIT since 1976 and since 1993 has had a joint appointment in biology.  Her research interests encompass the general areas of biological oceanography, plankton ecology, phytoplankton physiology, and ecological genomics. Her current specific interests are in ecology, evolution, and comparative genomics of marine cyanobacteria; environmental control of cell cycle regulation in cyanobacteria; ocean fertility and planktonic size spectra; and the ecological and policy dimensions of large-scale ocean fertilization. In Dr. Chisholm's words: "The general goal of the research in my lab is to advance our understanding of the ecology of phytoplankton in the oceans. The broader context of this work is quantifying the role marine phytoplankton play in the global carbon cycle, and in regulating the dynamics of higher trophic levels in the sea. In recent years our work has focused primarily on the ecology of Prochlorococcus, which serves as a model system for understanding microbial ecology in the sea, and for developing the field of ecological genomics."

2001 - Wallace S. Broecker

Professor Broecker's research interests center on climate systems, especially as they involve the role of oceans in climate change. He places strong emphasis on utilizing isotopes in investigating physical mixing and chemical cycling in the ocean and the climate history as recorded in marine sediments. Broecker's publications include: The glacial world according to Wally (1995); "Chaotic climate," Scientific American (1995); Greenhouse Puzzles (1993, with T. Peng); The Last Deglaciation: Absolute and Radiocarbon Chronologies (1992, edited with E. Bard); "The great ocean conveyor," Oceanography (1991); "What drives glacial cycles?" Scientific American (1990, with G.H. Denton); The Carbon Cycle and Atmospheric CO2: Natural Variations Archean to Present (1985, edited with E.T. Sundquist); How to Build a Habitable Planet (1987); and Tracers in the Sea (1982).

1999 - Thomas Pederson

Dr. Thomas Pedersen was appointed Executive Director of the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions beginning September 1, 2009. His previous positions included Dean of Science (2003-2009), Professor of Oceanography and Director of the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences at the University of Victoria (2002-2003), and Associate Dean, Research for the Faculty of Graduate Studies at the University of British Columbia (2000-mid2002). Pedersen holds a degree in geology from UBC and a PhD in marine geochemistry from the University of Edinburgh. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and of the American Geophysical Union. He is an internationally recognized authority on ocean chemistry, has published extensively in the field of paleoceanography, and has longstanding interests in climate change issues and the application of government policy to climate-change mitigation and adaptation.