Tim was born on 5 October 1937 in Middlesex, England. Amongst the most vivid memories of his childhood are the London docks burning, wailing sirens warning of bombing raids, the family basement full of Polish refugees, and standing in Paddington Railway Station with a gas mask hanging round his neck waiting to be evacuated, and, later, attending Bunce Court School in Otterden, a German/Jewish Landschulheim (rural boarding school) founded by Anna Essinger, who had escaped with her staff and pupils from Nazi Germany and found a welcome in England.
Tim, with Irish and English roots, was raised in England. His education included classical Greek and Latin, and he became well versed in Irish Gaelic, which has given him a lasting taste for mythology, but not for declensions. At University College London, he studied medicine, but a period of employment in the Stazione Zoologica, Napoli, where he spent some months training octopuses, gave him an appetite for marine biology and a permanent affinity with both cephalopods and the city of Naples. A peripatetic period followed, with studies in Dalhousie University, the Montreal Neurological Institute, The University of Southern California (Allan Hancock Foundation), and Instituto Oceanográfico da Universidade de São Paulo. He learned to use radiocarbon with Miki Oguri, to identify bathypelagic isopods with Richard Brusca, algae with Elmer Yale Dawson, copepod nauplii with Tagea Björnberg, and was much in demand at weekends for his skills in handling spinnakers. Research activities included tracing the fate of waste water (Miki’s GNP or gross national product) from a Los Angeles outfall (it ended up in a canyon off Baja California!), measuring primary production in a mangrove lagoon near Cananeia, and large mesocosm experiments to estimate secondary production.
Life and Career
In 1967, Tim joined the British Scientific Civil Service, at the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food (MAFF, now CEFAS) laboratory in Lowestoft. There he worked closely with the renowned fisheries and plankton scientist, David Cushing, on zooplankton dynamics in the North Sea, and on larval fish problems. Cushing wrote several books on both fisheries and plankton, and in 1979 Cushing, as Editor-in-Chief, with Tim Wyatt, as Deputy Editor, founded the Journal of Plankton Research (JPR). When Cushing stepped down from JPR in 1999, Tim became Editor-in-Chief until 2002. He was also Editor of the UNESCO-IOC Harmful Algae News from 1991 to 2012. Autumn 1966 saw the first massive blooms of ‘Gyrodinium aureolum’ (now Karenia mikimotoi) in European waters accompanied by salmon mortalities, and the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) was formally alerted to the potential hazards of noxious algal blooms. Two years later, in May 1968, a major outbreak of paralytic shellfish poisoning occurred in northeast England; MAFF took note and Cushing suggested to Tim that he “might give some thought” to these events. One result was a letter published in Nature, which attracted the attention of Clarice Yentsch, and led to an invitation to the First International Conference on Toxic Dinoflagellate Blooms, held in Boston in 1974.
Another peripatetic period followed. The old Marine Science Division of UNESCO sent Tim to Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Jordan, the British Council sent him to India. A sabbatical year was spent working for An Foras Forbartha, the Irish Environment Agency.
In 1979, Margaret Thatcher came to power in the UK. One of her promises was to downsize the Civil Service. She offered attractive terms to civil servants willing to resign. Tim said “no thanks.” But two years later, he met Beatriz Reguera, a Cuban-Spanish student of phytoplankton. A move to Spain seemed a good idea, was Thatcher’s offer still active? The answer from Whitehall was in the affirmative, and Tim “ran away” to Vigo with Beatriz, where they married and had three children. Meanwhile Beatriz rose to become Director of the Instituto Español de Oceanografia in Vigo, while Tim worked at the Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas) in Vigo, and interacts with an eclectic set of friends and colleagues in Spain and around the world. They have included Reuben Lasker, Beatrice Sweeney, Marta Vannucci, K Vagn Hansen, Joe Wroblewski, Ramón Margalef, Robert Guinn Currie, Maurizio Ribera d'Alcala, Adriana Zingone, Stig Skreslet, Hans Eilertsen, Kostas Stergiou, Ian Jenkinson, Manuel Larrañeta, Susana Junquera, Ferenc Jordan, Frederic Briand, and above all, Beatriz Reguera.
Research strategy and mentoring
Tim has published on fisheries cycles, zooplankton, phytoplankton, secreted organic matter and ecological engineering, as well as the significance of mythology, religion and ethics in science history and methods. He is best known to ISSHA members, however, for his contributions on harmful algae bloom dynamics, and his humorous and analytical tongue. Tim is not a slave to rat-race, grant-proposal science, and mainly just does and publishes original research.
On being asked whom he had mentored, Tim claimed he had mentored no-one. But in truth he has blazed a meandering and eclectic research trail that has crossed the paths of so many colleagues with more “linear” careers. As well as being fundamental and original, his works and words delight us, mentoring us to add wider wisdom when we try to plan and interpret our own research, our own lives and the lives of the organisms we share the world with and love to study.
10 Key publications
Wyatt, T. 2017. The maladies of enlightenment science. Ethics Sci. Environ. Polit. 17, 51-62.
D’Alelio, D., Libralato, S., Wyatt, T. & Ribera d’Alcalà, M. 2016. Ecological-network models link diversity, structure and function in the plankton food-web. Sci. Rep., 6, 21806.
Wyatt, T. & Zingone, A. 2014. Population dynamics of red tide dinoflagellates. Deep-Sea Res. II, 101, 231-236.
Wyatt, T. 2014. Margalef’s mandala and phytoplankton bloom strategies. Deep-Sea Res. II, 101, 32-49.
Velo-Suárez, L., Reguera, B., Garcés, E. & Wyatt, T. 2009. Vertical distribution of division rates in coastal dinoflagellate Dinophysis spp. populations: implications for modelling. Mar. Ecol. Progr. Ser. 385, 87-96.
Wyatt, T. & Ribera d′Alcalà, M. 2006. Dissolved organic matter and planktonic engineering. In: Production and Fate of Dissolved Organic Matter in the Mediterranean Sea. CIESM Workshop Monograph 28, 13-23.
Wyatt, T. 2003. Geochronology and myth – are Gods catastrophes? In: Human Records of Recent Geological Evolution in the Mediterranean Basin. Historical and Archaeological Evidence. CIESM Workshop Monograph 24, 119-130.
Eilertsen, H.C. & Wyatt, T. 2000. Phytoplankton models and life history strategies. S. Afr. J. mar. Sci. 22(1), 323-338.
Wyatt, T. & Jenkinson, I.R. 1997. Notes on Alexandrium population dynamics. J. Plankton Res. 19, 551- 575.
Wyatt, T. & Horwood, J. 1973. A model which generates red tides. Nature 244, 238-240.
Prepared by Ian Jenkinson and Beatriz Reguera, with a lot of help from Tim’s friends.