Missed this one earlier.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituar ... tuary.html
Copying it all, since I don't know how long this will stay online.
Rosemary Lowe-McConnell, who has died aged 93, was a pioneer in the study of tropical fish, a field to which she was introduced while studying the inland waters of Kenya and Uganda during the late 1940s.
In a career spanning nearly half a century, her contribution to ichthyology was immense, illuminating the zoo-geography, taxonomy, phenology and evolution of tropical fish. Working in the African Great Lakes region and the Amazon basin in South America, her studies focused on cichlids – the large and diverse vertebrate family of freshwater fishes that include angelfish, peacock bass, jaguar guapote and the red Texas. Her particular specialism, however, was the tilapia, which is now so successfully farmed that it is said to draw an annual revenue of $1 billion and is known as “aquatic chicken”.
Rosemary Helen Lowe (known to friends as Ro) was born on June 24 1921 and educated at Howell’s School, Denbigh, before studying at the University of Liverpool ; she remained with the university for postgraduate and doctoral studies.
Her fascination with Africa was inspired by her godmother, a biologist, who gave her books on natural history. Initially she wanted to be an explorer, and in later life recalled being told: “Never mind, dear, perhaps you can teach.”
From 1942 to 1945 Rosemary was a scientific officer with the Freshwater Biological Association (FBA) at Windermere in Cumbria, but on applying to the Colonial Service for a position as an entomologist she was informed that they would not employ a woman. The relatively new tropical fisheries department, by contrast, had no such qualms, and in 1945 she left for Africa on an expedition for the East African Fisheries Research Organisation (EAFRO). While travelling on the train to Lake Nyasa, the first of the African lakes at which she worked, she learnt about the Japanese surrender. She was joined in 1950 by her friend and collaborator Margaret Varley (the pair later worked on projects in Brazil).
Rosemary remained in Africa for 12 years, collecting and recording fish, and working for various organisations and institutions, including the Natural History Museum. In addition to Nyasa she studied the fish at Lakes Albert, Turkana and Tanganyika, as well as in the Pagani river in Tanzania. She investigated the life cycles and feeding habits of fish, their life strategies, parenting methods and how the various species rubbed along with one another. She was briefly the acting director of EAFRO.
In 1953 she married the geologist Richard McConnell, and as a result had to leave EAFRO, which had a “marriage bar” under which married women were not allowed to hold permanent posts. She joined her husband in Botswana (where she collected fish in the rivers and ponds of the Okavango Delta) before the couple moved to British Guiana in South America, where her husband became director of the British Guiana Geological Survey. There she recorded the interaction between electric fish from America and Africa and carried out research in the Rupununi savannah – the first survey of the Guiana shelf between the West Indies and Brazil.
In 1962 she returned to Britain, settling into a research post at the British Museum, to which she had sent samples during her travels. The museum, she wrote, was “an ideal base for meeting people and a catalyst for ideas and information”.
But her work in the field did not end there. She visited the vast reservoirs of West Africa (including Lake Kariba and Lake Volta) in the late Sixties, and in 1968 was the ichthyologist on the Xavantina-Cachimbo Expedition to north-eastern Mato Grosso in Brazil, run by the Royal Geographical Society. In Brazil she filed reports on catfish and gymnotoids and marvelled at the region’s birds, plants and insects. A decade later she travelled to Gatun Lake in Panama where the species Cichla ocellaris had been introduced to the waters.
She arranged various symposia on fish studies and played an important part in establishing tilapia aquaculture. She believed that the species was a valuable food source in developing countries and promoted its production with the fisheries administration of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation and the International Centre for Living Aquatic Resources Management (now known as the World Fish Centre).
Red tilapia: the species is successfully farmed, and is known as 'aquatic chicken' (ALAMY)
In 1995, by then a freelance consultant, she helped to raise awareness of the ecological damage being inflicted on the fish stocks of Lake Victoria in East Africa. What was once a “treasure trove” of approximately 300 species of cichlid, many unique to its habitat, had in recent years suffered from disappearing stocks. At first the finger of blame was pointed at the carnivorous Nile perch, introduced to the lake’s waters in the mid-Fifties. This, maintained Rosemary Lowe-McConnell, was only half the story; siltation was also a contributory factor. An estimated 200 species, she maintained, once present in the lake were now extinct.
Regarding the ecological future of Lake Victoria, she supported a unified policy between Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, all of which border the lake, on the assessment of fish stocks (including the possibility of introducing species). “This is one of the largest experiments, albeit unwitting, that’s ever happened,” she said. “Now we must discover as much as possible about what is going on.”
She was a fellow of the Linnean Society of London (and its vice-president in 1967), the first editor of the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society and a member of the Association for Tropical Biology .
She wrote more than 60 academic papers and published several books, including Fish Communities in Tropical Fresh Waters (1975) and her memoirs, The Tilapia Trail: The Life Story of a Fish Biologist (2006), in which she noted the peculiarity of African traffic signs (such as those warning of wandering elephants).
In later life, at her home in Sussex, she enjoyed assisting young ichthyologists and fisheries scientists . In 1997 she received the Linnean Medal of Zoology – “Not bad for someone who hasn’t had a job since 1953,” she observed.
Her husband predeceased her.
To honour those people who have been highly respected and known in ichthyological and hobbyist circles.
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