A Tribute to Llewellya H. Willis

In the Sunday (5/12/2019) NYT Obituary was homage paid to Llewellya W. Hillis (1930 – 2019) — a Canadian-American trailblazer for women in the field of Science and a rock star to me for her extensive contribution in Marine Biology with a specialty in macro-algae… yes… seaweed.  Her bio is too impressive to cover here but I could tell from the obituary she had a favorite, Halimeda.  I know what you’re thinking… how can someone get excited about seaweed?  

 

Halimeda falls into a group of macro-algae, that have a calcareous infrastructure for the algae to grow on.  My guess is that Llewelyn was surprised by the depth at which this species grew (50 m +) during her research in the nuclear crater of the Enewetak Atoll, in the southern Marshall Islands, where she was one of the first, and a woman, to dive this research site. It was her research that linked this species as a major contribution in the ecology of reef building.

But what caught my eye in her obituary, was her link to William Randolph Taylor, who wrote the Bible of Seaweeds, ‘Marine Algae of the Northeastern  Coast of North America.’ At the time, in 1978, as a student of Marine Biology with a specialty in Marine Algae, I purchased my own copy for a small fortune— a must if you were serious.  To my surprise, I pulled my copy from the shelf and saw a great thank you by Taylor for Llewellya’s significant contribution in the making of this reference manual, which has served me well over the years with its saltwater stained pages from hours upon hours in the field.  

Silversides

Silversides

It should be of no surprise that my latest novel under wraps, Silversides, has countless references to seaweed, from the opening scene, to the flora on an alien planet, to my characters names being a derivative of various genus of seaweeds, and my protagonist, a girl, named, Nori.

When a person of influence dies, you feel a part of you has been torn away, but the influence that lies beneath becomes yours.

Thank you Llewellya H. Willis, for being the needle of my compass.

 

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