It is with great sadness that we announce the loss of Prof. Roger Hughes
It is with great sadness that we announce that Roger Hughes passed away on the 30th August 2015.
Roger’s wide-ranging research interests and contribution to the field of marine ecology inspired countless students and junior colleagues to develop their own branches of research in marine zoology and ecology. Roger always described himself as a naturalist, and the study of whole organisms and their ecological relationships was the focus of his professional life, with a particular interest in feeding behaviour and the ecology and evolution of modular clonal organisms.
Roger studied Zoology here at Bangor University (or the University College of North Wales, as then known), and obtained a PhD in Marine Ecology here in 1968. In 1969, he was awarded the very competitive Killam Post Doctoral Fellowship at Dalhousie University to study benthic community ecology and the feeding behaviour of marine gastropods.
In 1971, Roger came back to Bangor as a Lecturer in Zoology. He was to spend all his subsequent career here, being promoted to Senior Lecturer in 1983, Reader in 1984 and to a Personal Chair in 1988. During that period, he was awarded the prestigious degree of Doctor of Science by the University of Wales, a degree conferred on academic staff demonstrating a proven record of internationally recognised scholarship.
In 2000, he became Lloyd Roberts Chair of Zoology, a post that he held until his “retirement” in 2011. But retirement was not an option for Roger. After a good send-off in the form of a special symposium organised in his honour in 2011, and immortalised in a dedicated section of Marine Ecology Progress Series, Roger stayed on at Bangor as a Professor Emeritus and continued his involvement in marine ecology and his functions as editor of Oceanography and Marine Biology: an Annual Review, Marine Ecology Progress Series, and Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology.
His early research interests lay in the ecology and foraging behaviour of intertidal and shallow marine predators, including the crustaceans Carcinus maenas and Cancer pagurus and the gastropod Nucella lapillus, as well as several species of fish. In particular, Roger investigated the learning and transfer of foraging skills across prey types, and their ecological and evolutionary consequences. Roger’s expertise in the field of feeding behaviour led him to organise a NATO Advanced Workshop on Diet Selection and his compilation of the resulting book, Diet Selection: a Multidisciplinary Approach to Foraging Behaviour, published by Blackwell in 1993.
Concurrently, he became interested in the life history of sessile modular animals, first corals and later bryozoans, which were to become one of his major research foci, in particular the species Celleporella hyalina. He used this species as a model to investigate fundamental questions in ecology and evolution, including the effect of environmental factors on body size and sex allocation, allorecognition in relation to mate choice and colonial fusion, mating compatibility and cryptic speciation.
In the early 1990’s, Roger took the leap from whole-organism biology into the depths of molecular ecology and population genetics. He made use of molecular markers to identify species and estimate gene flow in his favourite organisms, gastropods and bryozoans. These new techniques allowed him to shed light on hitherto unrecognised phenomena, such as the discovery of extensive cryptic species in bryozoans and the high dispersal potential of gastropods lacking planktonic larvae. He also used molecular genetic and genomic techniques to identify both plastic and heritable components of gastropod shell morphology and changes in genome-wide gene expression linked to ecological variables.
During the course of his career, Roger published 199 peer-reviewed papers on a wide variety of topics and taxa. To cite just a few, we find of course his old favourites, crabs, gastropods and bryozoans, but also a wide array of fishes (from sticklebacks to plaice and blennies), corals, onychophorans, water fleas (a small concession to freshwater zoology) and even penguins!
Apart from his outstanding contribution to research, the most lasting influence of Roger will no doubt be the inspiration of generations of young scientists who passed through his lab. Roger supervised 36 PhD and 27 MSc students, many of whom went on to develop very distinguished careers of their own, and many post-doctoral scientists had the good fortune to contribute to a number of his research projects.
Despite his eminence, Roger remained an approachable and welcoming person to all-comers. Something that kept Roger grounded was his interest in music and for many years he played lead guitar in a rock band. Roger’s enthusiasm for rock was evidenced at the 2005 Fisheries Society of the British Isles conference in Bangor where Roger and his band provided the conference dinner evening’s musical entertainment, at Brambell Building Christmas parties of old and at his “retirement” symposium where he put the hired band to shame!
For nearly five decades, Roger was at the forefront of marine biology research, and left his mark as an outstanding scientist, an inspiring mentor and a valued friend to many. He will be sorely missed, and very fondly remembered as an inspiration to us all. We are very much indebted to both his local and broader scientific and personal contributions, and I am sure that everybody joins us at this sad time, in offering our sincere condolences to his wife Helen, his two daughters Anne and Ruth, grandchildren and wider family.
We finally said goodbye to Roger at a moving and inspirational gathering at the Crematorium in Bangor, accompanied by a legacy of colleagues, friends and family on the 8th September.
Publication date: 14 September 2015