SAMS news room

OBE award for renowned deep sea scientist

A Scottish scientist who became one of the world’s foremost researchers in deep sea ecology has been awarded the OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

Edinburgh-born Dr John Gordon, who lives in Easdale, Isle of Seil, spent his whole research career at the Oban-based Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) after completing a PhD at Edinburgh University.

Dr Gordon began his research in the shallow waters of the Firth of Lorn but, with the commissioning of the RRS Challenger in 1974, he moved into deeper waters (500 to 1,500 metres) to the west of Scotland’s continental slope, working on the biology of the bottom-living fish which were later to be commercially fished.

His work contributed greatly to our knowledge of food chains in the deep sea and how commercial trawling affects fish populations in deeper water.

Dr Gordon said: “I was greatly surprised and of course honoured to be recommended for an OBE for services to science. I had to go back several times to the letter to make sure it was true!

“In accepting this honour I have to acknowledge that none of this would have been possible without the support of whole SAMS community over the years. I owe a great debt of gratitude to John Mauchline for his early guidance and collaboration in later years and to Janet Duncan and Sarah Swan for dedicated scientific support.  Finally, I have to thank the ship’s companies of RRS Challenger for many enjoyable days at sea, many of which were before the days of satellites and instantaneous communication and navigation – the simple life.”

Other key investigations by Dr Gordon helped to determine the age and stock identification of deep water commercial fish.

In 1994 he was named Buckland Professor, which involved giving public lectures on deep water fisheries at venues throughout the UK.

In 1995 he was appointed chairman of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) Study Group on the Biology and Assessment of Deep-sea Fishery Resources, a post he held until 2000 and he also provided advice and evidence to organisations such as the European Commission, the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC); the Scottish Government and the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology.

Professor Geoffrey Boulton, President of SAMS, commented: “The Earth is a water planet, with 71 per cent of its surface covered by oceans that are essential to the maintenance of life. John’s work on the deep ocean biosphere and the implications of its exploitation is a fundamental contribution to the vital understanding of the oceans that is necessary for a sustainable human future.

“The whole SAMS community is delighted by this recognition of John’s seminal contribution to this understanding.”

Dr Gordon retired in 2002 as Principal Scientific Officer at SAMS but remains an Honorary Research Fellow. His international reputation kept him busy as a keynote speaker and with several consultancies.
He is married to Kathleen, with whom he has two children, Hamish and Colin.

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