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Recent passing of esteemed colleagues

Roger Yates Anderson on Jan. 9, 2021 due to COVID-19

Eric Grimm

On Sunday, November 15th, 2020, Dr. Eric C. Grimm, loving husband, father, and world-renowned scientist, passed away suddenly at the age of 69. Eric was born on August 20th, 1951 in Cincinnati, OH. He grew up in Rapid City, SD, exploring the geology and plant life of the Black Hills. He was fascinated with science, and was an insatiable reader. He became an Eagle Scout and loved earning merit badges. Eric received his Ph. D. in Ecology from the University of Minnesota in 1981. On June 21st, 1980, he married Jane Anne Allard. They had one daughter, Maria.

In 1988, he moved to Springfield, IL and began his career at the Illinois State Museum as the Curator of Botany, rising to become the Director of Sciences in 2013. He helped lead the Landscape History Program, which contributed to the understanding of long-term changes in climate, landforms, ecosystems, and human-environment interactions and was the basis for the Museum's natural history hall.

Eric was committed to sharing scientific research with the public. He was a brilliant lecturer and excelled at explaining complex topics in a friendly and understandable way; his lectures on climate change always drew a crowd. He was internationally known and respected for his studies of fossil pollen (palynology) and research documenting long-term changes in vegetation and climate. He developed the North American Pollen Database, which was used to refine climate models to predict future climate change and to understand how species adapt to changing climates.

After his retirement from the Museum, he continued his robust research agenda and development of the Neotoma Paleoecology Database. He was deeply respected by his colleagues and beloved for his generosity in mentoring young scientists. Among his many honors, he was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2002, received the Outstanding Service Award from the International Paleolimnology Association in 2012, and awarded the 2015 Distinguished Career Award by the American Quaternary Association.

Roger Yates Anderson

Roger Yates Anderson died in Poughkeepsie, NY on Jan. 9, 2021 at the age of 93. Roger was an emeritus professor in the department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, where he taught for ~40 years. He was an incredibly creative scientist, devoted to understanding the origin of varves and the role of the sun in climate change. He held several patents on sediment traps and devices he called “intervalometers,” which were mounted in the traps to dispense teflon powder at user-specified intervals. These devices allowed him to place time stamps on the continuous rain of sediments in a lake and to follow the changing clastic and ecological inputs over a season or succession of years. Through a side business operated out of his home called the Aquatic Monitoring Institute, Roger manufactured these traps for colleagues and helped deploy them in waterbodies all over the world, including the Dry Valleys of Antarctica, the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California, and Spirit Lake, on the flanks of Mt. St. Helens, prior to its eruption. The latter trap was never found but provided a great story that Roger enjoyed relaying to colleagues, family, and friends.

In addition to his pioneering work on seasonal sedimentation, Roger was one of the first people to adopt a multi-proxy approach to studying lake sediments. With graduate students such as Douglas Kirkland, J. Platt Bradbury, and Walter Dean, he examined not only the mineralogy and grain size of sediments, but also the stable isotope content of carbonates and the pollen, diatoms, ostracodes, fish fossils, and plant remains that revealed the changing climate over time. Many of his projects represented truly herculean efforts that spanned several decades. His work on the Permian Castile formation in the Delaware Basin of southeastern New Mexico and western Texas is one such example and involved the hand counting and thickness measurement of 260,000 layers of annually deposited gypsum. In doing this work, Roger also became an early adopter of the use of spectral analysis on paleoclimatic time series, finding cycles consistent with orbital precession and obliquity, and much later in his life, uncovering higher frequency signals with periods identical to solar Hale and Gleissberg cycles. He was, in fact, working on a manuscript using the same data at the time of his death at age 93. In addition to his research on the Castile and Elk Lake in Minnesota, Roger is perhaps best known for his work on Pleistocene pluvial Lake Estancia in central New Mexico, another multi-decade effort that continued well beyond his retirement. With graduate student Bruce Allen and others, he found evidence of millennial scale oscillations that appear to match those recorded in Greenland ice cores and embarked on numerical modeling experiments to explore what climatic conditions were responsible for raising the lake to its various highstands.

While Roger had a very productive scientific career, he was also devoted to the causes of peace and social justice and to his family. He is survived by myself (his life partner of the past 24 years) and our adopted son as well as by 7 other children, 12 grandchildren, and 12 great-grandchildren. Those who would like to learn more about his life are invited to read his biography here.


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