[Coral-List] Passing of Jack Randall

Alina Szmant alina at cisme-instruments.com
Wed Apr 29 15:10:04 UTC 2020

Hello Luis:

Thank you for sharing this sad news. I first met Jack back in 1964 when I was one of 6 students taking Peter Glynn's inaugural Marine Ecology course at the marine station in La Parguera, PR. Jack was on the staff there, and one of our instructors. I quickly fell in love with reef fishes (my first love before I became entranced with reef corals). Another one of the faculty was Dr. Luis Almodovar, a marine phycologist. I was assigned algae as my study group, which actually opened my eyes to the beauty of these important plants. My summer project melded my interest in both: feeding preferences of grazing fishes. I was just a freshman and had little science training, so I remember how crude my experiments were. But part of my project was to examine the gut contents of various species of herbivorous fishes. Jack and his field tech showed me how to use a Hawaiian spear, and Jack helped me learn to gut and examine the contents. I learned the hard way that he had developed a severe allergy to formalin from handling so many pickled fishes when I showed him a fresh sample (that I had already preserved with formalin), he reached into the jar to examine the sample and his fingers started to bleed!  I felt so bad!  Another memory from those days of a sampling approach that would not be allowed today, was to rotenone a whole patch reef to quantify fish diversity and biomass. Our class helped set the nets surrounding the reef, release the rotenone and the scoop up fishes to weigh and ID. This was the way that science advanced in the day, so younger folks reading this post please don't think badly about what was done back then. Without these small ecological sacrifices there wouldn't be books ID'ing common and rare fishes, and we would have no data on fish biomass. 

Jack Randall was one of the greats in coral reef ecology and ichthyology. His work and impact will long outlast his mortal body!


Dr. Alina M. Szmant, CEO
CISME Instruments LLC
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AAUS Scientific Diving Lifetime Achievement Awardee
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-----Original Message-----
From: Coral-List <coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov> On Behalf Of Luiz Rocha via Coral-List
Sent: Wednesday, April 29, 2020 9:18 AM
To: Coral List <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
Subject: [Coral-List] Passing of Jack Randall

Hi everyone,

It is with a heavy and sad heart that I report the passing of Jack Randall. I don't think Jack requires introduction, but just to keep it short, if it wasn't for him, modern ichthyology would look very different. He was a true pioneer and started diving very early (late 50s, early 60s), which gave him access to hundreds of underscribed reef fish species. He is most known for his taxonomic contributions (he described almost 1,000 species), but also wrote many important papers on reef fish ecology, behavior and biogeography. He was very generous with his time and my first interactions with him were in the late 90s when he carefully reviewed what became my first international paper, the description of Haemulon squamipinna in Copeia.

I will tell you my funny story about him, so please share yours (I know there are many). During the ASIH conference in La Paz, Mexico in 2002 I had the distinct privilege of diving with him. But before we got in the water we had to get on a dive boat, and when we were booking our dive, the dive shop obviously wanted to see our dive certifications. I showed them my PADI card and he pulled out his YMCA dive card that was printed in the 1960s! The instructor at the dive shop had never seen one before and didn't want to let him dive! Lucky for me, I reacted quickly and saw that the book shelf at the dive shop had several of his books, so I pulled the books and pointed out to them that the person in the card and the one in the book were the same! And that's how I went diving with legendary Jack Randall.

He passed away on the night of April 26 peacefully in his house with his family.

Thanks and stay safe,


Luiz A. Rocha, PhD
Associate Curator and Follett Chair of Ichthyology California Academy of Sciences p. 415.379.5370 f.  415.379.5731 LRocha at calacademy.org Academic Website

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