November 1, 2010
Dr. Isabella Abbott.
High resolution (Credit: Celia Smith, Ph.D.)
I am deeply saddened to share news of the passing of Dr. Isabella Abbott on October 28 at the age of 91. A pioneer in the study of central-Pacific seaweeds, Izzie was a font of knowledge and a beacon of inspiration for generations of marine biologists around the world, but especially at the two institutions where she taught, Stanford University and the University of Hawaii.
I saw Izzie most recently when she spoke eloquently and passionately at the public hearing held by President Obama’s Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force in Honolulu a little over a year ago. And I spoke with her by phone a number of weeks ago as she worked on her latest seaweed tome.
Izzie has been central to many of NOAA’s stewardship responsibilities in the Pacific, especially in understanding the wealth of marine life in Papahanaumokuakea, our Marine National Monument in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands.
As the first Native Hawaiian woman to earn a Ph.D., a long list of “firsts” grace her official biographies — but for those of us who knew her, the “first” that matters most is the warm feeling of love and affection that first come to mind whenever we think of her. Make no mistake, however: NOAA’s science in the Pacific will feel the loss of the guiding hand of our “First Lady of Limu” ("seaweed" in Hawaiian) for many years to come.
Limu was her passion; the merger of brilliant science with deep respect of native culture and all peoples is her legacy. She will be sorely missed. Mahalo nui loa, Izzie.
Dr. Jane Lubchenco