Todd Radenbaugh is remembered as a ‘visionary’ dedicated to environmental education in Bristol Bay

Todd Radenbaugh was known for his tenacity and boundless enthusiasm for education and the environment—someone who tackled global issues through community action.

“Sustainability starts at the local level. And sustainability has to stay local. And sustainability has to use both science and local culture,” Radenbaugh said, speaking to KDLG last year at the March event. for Science by Dillingham. “Know where your water is coming from. I mean, it’s a local thing. Know a little geography. Should you build there? Is there a landslide going to hit the property that you just bought. So there’s a lot you can do by educating yourself in a scientific way that you can be much more in line with Mother Earth, shall we say, and trying to keep her healthy.”

Michele Masley was Radenbaugh’s wife of 14 years. They met at graduate school in Canada.

“It’s funny, I always called him my walking encyclopedia,” she said. “I could ask him a question about anything, and I’d get a really long answer,” she laughed. “And so he learned to watch me to know when to stop talking.”

Radenbaugh grew up in North Carolina and earned an undergraduate degree in marine biology from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. He went to Appalachian State University for his master’s degree in paleontology and earned his doctorate in interdisciplinary science from the University of Regina in Saskatchewan, Canada. He also worked with the Peace Corps in Jamaica.

He came to Dillingham in 2006 to take up a position as an associate professor of environmental science at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Bristol Bay Campus. And he wasted no time getting to work.

“When he came to Dillingham, he came straight from the airport, and he came straight to campus, and I was teaching a class,” said Mark Lisac, a retired federal fisheries biologist. “He had all these great ideas, and I was sitting there rolling my eyes, thinking, ‘Oh, this guy just came to town, a doctor in the lead from somewhere. But over the years I got to know Todd, and he really impressed me. It is a great loss for the community and the world to lose someone of this caliber.

Radenbaugh started the environmental science program on campus. He also established the Western Alaska Interdisciplinary Science Conference. The annual event brings together people and students who work and conduct research around Bristol Bay.

Lisac said Radenbaugh doesn’t let his students get distracted during his classes.

“You know how everyone is, they all give these long PowerPoints and they buzz around for a while — me included,” Lisac said. “Well, Todd gave a presentation on the importance of estuaries. And everyone woke up. Because if you’ve ever heard Todd give a speech, sometimes he got really loud. And if he saw people doze off, he was actually yelling after the lecture. And I think he probably yelled the word ‘estuary’ about 20 times during that presentation, and everyone was awake.”

Radenbaugh has also organized and chaired numerous other conferences, forums, workshops, educational programs and discussion groups. He helped organize the Alaska Forum on the Environment, and he chaired its environmental education track. In addition, he has chaired a number of AAAS Arctic science conferences.

Kim Williams, acting principal of the Bristol Bay Campus, said she remembered Radenbaugh from her work at Nunamta Aulukestai, which was a non-profit association of village corporations and tribal councils in Bristol Bay.

Williams said he is dedicated to working with local people on environmental issues in the area.

“His contribution to training through courses, training IGAP tribal workers on how to examine water quality, to me was a testament to his long heritage in our region. than our resource development conversations – we have better conversations because of Todd,” Willams said. “He gave us the techniques to look at what the science is behind water quality. And that, I think, is invaluable.”

“You could really see that enthusiasm for what he was doing and for spreading knowledge,” said Gabe Dunham, who worked with Radenbaugh through his work with the Alaska Sea Grant marine advisory program. “He is really one of the only representatives of the scientific and research communities to live here year-round. [Radenbaugh] was a great teacher and very good at communicating these concepts and ideas to people. That’s really where I think some of his biggest impact came from.”

Radenbaugh was a scientist who went beyond salmon, Dunham explained. He was one of the first to carry out benthic trawl surveys in Bristol Bay. Through these investigations, he studied isopods – shrimp-like creatures that live in the mud and water around Bristol Bay and feast on salmon carcasses, making them an integral part of the food web. of the region.

In the outpouring of memories after Radenbaugh’s death, people pointed to his dedication to education, his great influence on those he worked with, and his desire to help people better understand science and the environment that surrounds them.

“I think his lasting legacy is that people look beyond the salmon in Bristol Bay,” said his wife, Masley.

She said Radenbaugh was a visionary and had a deep love for this region.

“He loved how wild, huge and unique Bristol Bay was, from an environmental point of view. I hope he contributed to a wider reflection on the ecological value of Bristol Bay,” said she declared.

Radenbaugh died of metastatic cancer on October 26. He was 56 years old. It was a disease that had dogged him for years; he had a brain tumor removed over ten years ago.

Masley tentatively plans a celebration of life for him in the spring.