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Rebecca Clark '96 Dies in Tsunami

In her honor, Rebecca Clark '96 Memorial Scholarship in Marine Studies launched
January 5, 2005


 rebeccaclark

By Steve Katona, COA President and Donna Gold, Director of Public Relations

I am sad to let you know that Rebecca Clark '96, was among the many people who died on December 26, 2004, in  the tsunami that devastated countries bordering the Indian Ocean. Rebecca was working at Phra Thong, a tiny island  in the Andaman sea, north of Phuket, Thailand, at a marine research station run by Naucrates, an Italian non-governmental agency dedicated to the study and protection of sea turtles and mangrove forests.

Rebecca died doing what she loved, studying the ocean and the animals that made it their home. To honor the memory of this stellar researcher and make it possible for more young scientists to follow their dreams, COA has created the Rebecca Clark '96 Memorial Scholarship in Marine Studies.

One of her last contacts with the college had been her donation last fall to help current students attend a workshop in the Adirondacks. In connection with this gift she wrote, "I wanted to help as many students as I could. All of my various work experiences have drawn on my COA education, giving me a greater appreciation for its educational approach. I would not be where I am today without that background."

It is therefore deeply fitting to continue Rebecca's memory to help even more students. To this end, trustee Edward McC. Blair launched the scholarship with a donation of $50,000. As a devoted follower of whales, Blair shared many a whale-watching expedition with Clark through her work with Allied Whale. "I have been fortunate in having so many in young friends through Allied Whale," Blair said upon endowing the scholarship. "I just hate to lose one."rebeccaclarkonboard

Rebecca grew up in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, with a deep love for the Bay of Fundy and its marine wildlife and resources. Her studies at COA focused on marine biology and environmental conservation. She worked at Allied Whale throughout her years here, and also volunteered at the Edward McC. Blair Research Center on Mt. Desert Rock. For her internship, she worked as a field assistant for the Brier Island Ocean Study, Westport, Nova Scotia. Her senior project, "Fin Whales of the Bay of Fundy: Who Are They?" used individual photo-identification to document the migrations and distribution of whales that use the Bay of Fundy habitat on a regular basis.

 While a student and after graduation, Rebecca worked with a number of marine-related organizations and projects, including the New England Aquarium's Right Whale Project, whale surveys carried out by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Ocean Alliance. In 1999 she joined Ocean Alliance, a project of the Whale Conservation Institute, founded by Roger Payne. She participated on the Voyages of the Odyssey, a worldwide survey of the health of the oceans using sperm whales as one of the indicator species, and served as Chief Scientist on a number of the cruises. She also served as science manager for Ocean Allianceís office at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

In the days since her death, many people have been responding with remembrances of Rebecca. Among them is Ken Cline, who was Rebecca's advisor and remained a good friend.  "Rebecca was very quiet until you got to know her," he said. "Even then, she was rather soft spoken unless she was talking about the ocean or whales or the marine life that she saw during her internship and out on Mount Desert Rock. Then her eyes would get really bright and she would let herself go." He and Rebecca spent some time together last summer, "The whole time she talked her eyes had that brightness and she brimmed with enthusiasm as she described the beautiful islands in the south Pacific and the marine life she saw. She also spoke about how her work on the Odyssey, how they helped create a marine sanctuary for Papua New Guinea along with legislation to protect marine animals for that country. Listening to her reminded me of why I came to COA in the first place, it is so gratifying to play a role, no matter how small, in such an amazing life."

Roger Payne, senior scientist and executive producer of The Voyage of the Odyssey spoke of Rebecca as one of the most outstanding field researchers he had ever encountered, "Even if you live as long as I have, and experience hundreds of students and colleagues, you will still find it rare indeed to find anyone who sticks to a job through such thick thicks and thin thins as did Reb."

COA will remember Rebeccaís love for the ocean and the many contributions she made toward understanding and conserving the life it contains. The morning before the tsunami, Rebecca was excited about finding a new turtle nest and was educating local people about her project, happy and cheerful, with a big smile on her face. That is how we will remember her, full of enthusiasm, energy and high spirits. Our sympathy goes out to those who survive Rebecca, including her mother, Sarah Clark, of Annapolis Royal, her stepfather, Philip Hore, and her twin sister Alia Bathauer.

Rebecca's body was cremated in a Buddhist ceremony in Thailand. A memorial service will be held on Wednesday, January 5, at 2 p.m. in the Annapolis Royal Fire Hall.

Remembrances about Rebecca may be sent Shawn Keeley, Alumni Coordinator, skeeley@coa.edu, who will collect them and send them on to Rebeccaís family.

Photographs of Rebecca and additional information on her work may be found at:
http://www.pbs.org/odyssey/odyssey/20050103_log_transcript.html
http://www.pbs.org/odyssey/daily_photo.html
http://www.pbs.org/odyssey/odyssey/rebecca_clark.html
http://www.pbs.org/odyssey/odyssey/20010110_log_transcript.html
http://www.naucrates.org/

To donate to the scholarship, please link to:
https://www.coa.edu/development/secure/donation.html

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