Laurence Mee, 1951-2014

A leading international expert on the marine environment and strategies for its protection has died

September 4, 2014

Laurence Mee was born in Ipswich on 14 February 1951 and studied for a BSc in chemical oceanography at the University of Liverpool (1974). He followed this with a PhD on the “Chemistry and hydrography of Mexican tropical lagoons” (1977) before taking up a series of research and administrative positions outside the UK.

The first was at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma in Mexico (1977-87), where Professor Mee was responsible for the construction and operation of the country’s first purpose-built research ship. He then returned to Europe as director of the Marine Environmental Studies Laboratory in Monaco (1987-93), the only United Nations laboratory specialising in marine environmental assessment.

From Monaco, Professor Mee moved on to Istanbul as founding coordinator of the Global Environmental Facility Black Sea Environmental Programme (1993-98), forging government-level and academic links between countries that had been on opposite sides of the Cold War to carry out and publish the first integrated environmental assessment of the Black Sea. Then, appointed to a prestigious Pew fellowship in marine conservation, he served as a visiting professor at Plymouth University and senior consultant at the International Centre for Water Studies in the Netherlands (1998-2000) before taking up a full-time position at Plymouth as professor of marine and coastal policy (2000-08) and then also director of the Marine Institute (2005-08).

Professionally active at one time or other in almost 50 countries, Professor Mee described himself as “a marine scientist and environmentalist” who “look[ed] at the relationship between people and the ever-changing marine environment and work[ed] with politicians, community leaders, educationalists and business leaders to devise ways to use our seas more sustainably”. His final position from 2008 was as director of the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) in Argyll, one of 13 partner institutions that came together in 2011 to form the new University of the Highlands and Islands.

“Laurence remained a productive researcher specialising in coupled social-ecological systems,” recalls SAMS president Geoffrey Boulton. “Actively publishing research articles on the science/policy interface, he acted as environmental adviser to the UK government, the European Commission and the UN. His enthusiasm for the societal implications of the changing marine environment was unbounded.”

Professor Mee died after a stroke on 13 August and is survived by his four children.

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