Ruth Gates, a famous marine biologist who made it his life’s work to save the world’s delicate coral reefs from the killing effects of warming water temperatures, October 25, Kailua, Hawaii. She was 56 years old.
Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology in Manoa, where Dr. Gates was a director, announced her death at Castle Hospital. Robin Burton-Gates, her wife, said the cause was complications of diverticulitis surgery. Dr Gates also had cancer that had spread to her brain, she said.
Dr. Gates had wanted to be a marine biologist because she was a kid who had been entranced by coral reefs when she saw them on investigations by investigator Jacques Cousteau.
An expensive natural resource, coral reefs are often called rainforests for the ocean as they provide a caring habitat for critical food sources for millions of people, except that they work as one
But in the last decades, at least one third of the world’s reefs, which are very sensitive to temperature changes, dead, victims of an increase in global warming, marine acidism, ecotourism, pollution and commercial overfishing. Researchers say that heating trends indicate that much more can be destroyed over the next 30 years, with coral as a canyon in the coal mine to potentially collapse of the marine ecosystem.
Dr. Gates was one of the leading scientists who tried to protect corals from such fate. As head of the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, part of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, she developed a “super coral” that could be bred to be more resistant to the heat and acidity that attacks the marine environment.
“I always think of the planet as a puzzle and there are all those pieces that must fit together to create the image,” she said this year an episode of the HBO documentary “Vice”. Losing pieces like a coral reef or polar, she said, “will finally wipe us out as a species”.
In addition to doing advanced research, Dr. Gates a passion for his work that animated a personality of a greater endurance and made her a sought after audience and the subject of many videos. She was president of the International Society for Reef Studies; She talked about her work at the UN and at the Aspen Ideas Festival; and she mentored a generation of doctoral students.
She was many, a renaissance woman.
“She could do well,” said Mrs Burton-Gates in a telephone interview. “She was good at computers, great at business, she could remodel home, she was a great cook, she had a third grade black belt in karate.”
She was also, said Mrs. Burton-Gates, “a good athlete at school.” And it turned out she could sing. At a karaoke night in Honolulu 2015, she surprised everyone and ended the show by wearing “Diamonds Are Forever.”
Mostly, Dr. Gates, who was British, his communication ability to service coral. And she used her command of Queen English to great effect.
“She used to laugh at the fact that you could say the most inane, but if you had a British accent, people should believe you,” Dr. Margaret McFall -Ngai, director of the Pacific Biosciences Research Center at the University of Hawaii at Manoa , said in a phone call.
“It’s a very rare day to have a scientist like charismatic like Ruth,” said Dr. McFall-Ngai. . “She was the Carl Sagan of Coral Reef.”
Ruth Deborah Gates was born March 28, 1962 in Akrotiri, Cyprus, where her father John Amos Gates was stationed while working in British military intelligence. Her mother, Muriel (Peel) Gates, was a physiotherapist. With her parents constantly traveling, Ruth grew up primarily in a school in Kent, England.
She graduated in marine biology from Newcastle University in 1984 and studied there in the same subject in 1990. She did much of her first studies of coral in Jamaica, just like Caribbean corals began to die. She conducted further research at the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of Hawaii.
She met Ms. Burton-Gates, an illustrator, 2014 by a common friend. They marry September 28th. A brother, Tim, surpasses her too.
In 2013, Paul G. Allen’s Family Fund offered $ 10,000 for the most promising proposal to mitigate problems caused by an increasingly sour sea. Dr Gates and Madeleine van Oppen, from the Australian Institute of Marine Science, won the challenge of developing high-voltage coral tribes, much how farmers grow stronger crops.
The foundation then gave them a five-year, $ 4 million grant, with the long-term goal of creating a layer of hard coral tribes that could replace dying coral reefs around the world.
The work has its skeptics. An important issue is whether the development of these new coral strains is scalable for global application. Another is whether a mechanism can be created through which the strains can be distributed to a large extent. It is still a matter of whether the money can be paid for these very expensive companies.
In addition to this, some people question whether this process will actually limit the diversity of coral, which can lead to unintended consequences.
Dr. Gates was generally rude by the criticism.
“I hate saying that,” she said in an interview with the Fast Company magazine this year, “but the climate change makes the most obscene genetic reduction experiment ever done.”
Her laboratory is still dedicated to performing her work.
“Instead of living on the problems facing the corals, Ruth focused on developing and testing the real solutions,” Kira Hughes, project manager at Gates Coral Lab, said via e-mail. “She acted – doing something now – it would ensure that coral reefs survive in the future.”