Mia Jean Tegner, a research marine biologist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, since 1969, died yesterday, Jan. 7, 2001, in a scuba diving accident off San Diego, Calif. She was 53 years old.
"We knew MIA when she was a young adult just beginning her scientific endeavors. She grew to maturity with us, and spent her life at Scripps," said Dr. Charles F. Kennel, director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography. "She dedicated more than 25 years of work to the ecology of the kelp beds off Point Loma in San Diego, and she developed a new and deep appreciation for this delicate, undersea rain forest. The ocean world has lost a treasure."
An experienced scuba diver, Tegner made more than 4,000 dives throughout the world during her 31 years at Scripps.
Her main scientific research focused on the ecology of kelp forest communities and nearshore marine resources. She worked extensively on sea urchin natural history and population dynamics, the ecology and restoration of abalone populations in southern California, and the effects of disturbances and climate change on kelp communities. She studied the Point Loma kelp beds for almost three decades, and her long time series of observations has been instrumental to scientists' understanding of the effects of ocean climate on nearshore ecosystems.
Tegner's most current research included studies of the effects of El Niño and La Niña events on the plants and animals of the kelp ecosystem. One project focused on the reproductive response of abalone populations to warm water, and how to incorporate environmental variability into fisheries management.
The San Diego wastewater treatment plant discharges treated sewage near Tegner's kelp bed study area, and since 1992 she has measured the effects of the sewage on the local marine life. She found great satisfaction in using the information she gathered on the health of the Point Loma kelp forest to promote a better understanding of the effects of sewage on marine organisms. The information she gathered assisted the state of California with the maintenance of state fisheries and provided citizens with the facts they needed to make informed decisions about environmental issues such as sewage treatment.
Tegner was born in Santa Monica, Calif., on July 7, 1947. She decided on a career in science after abandoning hopes of fire fighting in the third grade. She received a B.A. degree in biology from the University of California, San Diego, in 1969, and a Ph.D. in marine biology from Scripps in 1974.
She started studying sea urchins shortly after she joined Scripps in 1969 as a marine microbiology trainee. As a post-doctoral researcher, her interests shifted from the fertilization biology to the field ecology of sea urchins. In 1983 she began studies on El Niño and its effects on kelp beds.
With colleagues Paul Dayton, Peter Edwards, and Kristin Riser, Tegner was honored with the prestigious Cooper Ecology Award in August 2000. Marking a first for research in an oceanic system, the Cooper Award honored Tegner and her research team for their investigations of the Point Loma kelp forest communities. "These four researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography were able to address fundamental questions about sustainability of communities in the face of disturbance along environmental gradients," the Ecological Society of America noted in announcing the 2000 award.
In 1998, Tegner was awarded a fellowship in the Pew Fellow Program in Marine Conservation to develop an ecosystem approach to fisheries management for kelp forest species that takes into account the changing environment. Other recent awards included the 1998 Conservation Award from the Sonoma County Abalone Network and the 1986 University of California, San Diego, Distinguished Alumna of the Year award.
Tegner was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and was a member of the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography, the International Abalone Society, National Shellfish Association, the Southern California Academy of Sciences, and the Western Society of Naturalists.
She is survived by her husband, Eric Hanauer, of San Diego, Calif., a daughter, Sandi Hanauer, of Costa Mesa, Calif., her parents Oly and Allie Tegner of Palos Verdes, Calif. and a sister, Lars Palsson, of Palos Verdes, Calif.
lieu of flowers, donations in Mia Tegner's memory can be made to Scripps Institution of Oceanography to support kelp forest research. For more information, contact the Development Office, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, 858/822-1865. A memorial service for Mia Tegner will be held at the Birch Aquarium at Scripps on Friday, Jan. 12, at 4 p.m.
<p><font color="00000" face="Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="3"><b>Jessica Eichenberg<br /> (858) 534-3624</b></font><br /> <font face="Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif"><b><a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org"><font color="navy">email@example.com</font></a></b></font></p>