September 28, 2020

Dear Members of Our Campus Community,

With great sadness I am sharing the news that an eminent figure in our history, Dr. Joseph Hurd Connell, Professor Emeritus of Biology, left us quietly in his sleep on September 1. Dr. Connell was part of our UC Santa Barbara community for over three decades, from 1957 until 1991, as a faculty member in our Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology. Even after retirement he remained active as an emeritus professor, continuing his research on campus. During his tenure he shaped the field of ecology, mentored countless students, and won accolades for his groundbreaking research. On September 30, we will lower our campus flag in his honor.

Dr. Connell began life in Gary, Indiana, in 1923. During WWII he served in the Army Air Corps predicting weather in Europe, where he was also able to develop his passion for nature exploring the Azores. He earned a bachelor’s degree in meteorology from the University of Chicago in 1946, and a master’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley. Following completion of his Ph.D. in zoology from Glasgow University in Scotland, he worked at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute until his move to UC Santa Barbara. While still in Scotland, he met his beloved wife, Margaret Harvey, and they married in 1954 in Exeter, England.

Dr. Connell’s distinction in the field of ecology is best summed up by the words of Professor Sally Holbrook when she bestowed the Ecological Society of America’s Eminent Ecologist award on him in 1985: “Joseph H. Connell has had a profound impact on the discipline of ecology. During the past three decades his work and its implications have become so broadly known it is difficult to imagine what the field would have been like had Joe pursued a different career.” His work was recognized in many ways, including winning the Mercer Award in 1963, serving as a corresponding member of the Australian Academy of Science, and as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He also twice received a Guggenheim Fellowship for research, in 1962 and 1971, to study coral reefs and rainforests in Australia.

Scott Hodges, Professor and Chair of our Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology, shared the following kind words: “EEMB was very fortunate to have had such a special and towering figure in our department. He influenced and shaped the lives of many and laid the foundation for the prominence of our department in ecological research.” Our campus was elevated by the inquisitive mind of Dr. Connell, and we cannot express enough our gratitude for his service in our community. Our deepest sympathies go out to his wife, Margaret, and his family for their loss. Dr. Connell’s discoveries inspired us all, and he will be missed.


Henry T. Yang