00:00 / 00:00

Paul J. Harrison

$33,399.88 (raised so far)

About Paul J. Harrison

Paul J. Harrison was a humble man and a mentor to many. His love of learning, spending time in nature, travel, and adventure shone through in both his academic career and personal life. He was a Professor Emeritus at the University of British Columbia, an outstanding international scientist, and a tremendous supporter of his academic colleagues.

Paul and his sister Joan grew up on an idyllic 300-acre farm near Uxbridge, Ontario, where he attended a one-room school. He entered high school at age 12 and upon graduation pursued a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Toronto. It was there that he met his lifelong companion, Victoria Harman. They both had a zest for travel, so after three months of marriage they headed to Ghana on a two-year teaching contract with CUSO. Whenever they got the chance they traveled throughout West and East Africa, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and navigating the southern Nile River. It was in Ghana, living near the ocean, that Paul decided to pursue a PhD in Biological Oceanography at the University of Washington.

After completing his PhD and climbing all the major mountain peaks in the state of Washington, Paul became a professor in oceanography at the University of British Columbia. He soon built an internationally recognized program in Biological Oceanography, which trained 45 graduate students, 15 postdoctoral scholars and countless undergraduates, many of whom went on to be leaders in academia, government and industry. He published over 300 refereed scientific papers (nearly 50 in the last five years), co-authored “The Bible” of seaweed physiology and ecology, and is one of the most highly cited scholars in his discipline.

His research focused on the microscopic primary producers (the “grass of the sea”) that provide the fuel for the ocean’s food chain, from fish to whales. Paul investigated the productivity in the Strait of Georgia, and conducted large-scale iron fertilization experiments in the North Pacific. Later in his career, he spent 10 years in Hong Kong where he worked on red tides, dead zones, and the role of the ocean in reducing global warming and climate change. Throughout his life, Paul won several awards for his research and teaching, including being elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. Despite his international recognition, Paul was always willing to put the achievements of others above his own.

Although officially “retired” for five years, Paul never slowed down. He continued to advise students, post-docs and colleagues, spearhead award nominations, advise government agencies, sit on international working groups, write papers and chapters, and edit books. He also supported Nature Vancouver, giving talks, leading field trips, and participating in several wilderness camps throughout British Columbia. He recently joined the Richmond Bike Club and the Golden Ages Hiking Club. Top trips included hiking for ten days in the Czech Republic, cycling for two weeks in Cuba and snowshoeing in the local mountains. All of these adventures were shared with his enthusiastic wife and teammate, Victoria. Above this all, Paul’s real passion was running. He got hooked during graduate school and made a habit of never traveling without his runners. He always said it was his natural high.

He will be greatly missed by his wife of 51 years, Victoria, their three children, Richard, Christina and Rachel, their three grandchildren, Shoshauna, Anastasia, and Payton, his sister Joan and her three children, Aaron, Andrew and Nancy, and their families, sister-in-law Gwen and brother-in-law Glen, and their families, as well as colleagues from around the world.

Read More

The impact of your support

In memory of Paul’s life and contributions to the university, the Paul J. Harrison Memorial Award in Oceanography has been established at the UBC Faculty of Science.

Your gift will pay tribute to Paul, by supporting an outstanding graduate student within the Oceanography program. The Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences has also agreed to match all donations to the award, up to a maximum of $20,000, meaning your donation could be doubled. Thank you.

Messages of Remembrance

All Messages
Shape Created with Sketch.
  • I did not meet Paul until after I, he and Mary Jo Duncan had written and published The Physiological Ecology of Seaweeds (Cambridge, 1985). Mary Jo and I had been grad students at the same time in Louis Druehl’s lab at Simon Fraser. I met Paul and Victoria and their kids in Richmond, BC, and years later a couple of times in Hong Kong. That book became Seaweed Physiological Ecology (1994), and recently went through a major revision to become a second edition, which won the 2015 Prescott Book Award from the Phycological Scoiety of America. Ironically, the first book had been turned down in favor of a second edition of another book and the Prescott committee did not to spread the award among so many authors, the 1st edition of the new book was not allowed in the competition on the grounds that it was a 2nd edition, and when our 2nd edition won, it shared the prize with another book and each book had 4 coauthors! Paul and Victoria were a wonderful couple and we remember Paul fondly and wish Victoria and the family best wishes and condolences.

    Christopher S Lobban, co-author of books on seaweed ecology & physiology 1985-2014
  • I first met Paul 27 years ago, and I knew in an instant that he was no ordinary man. Paul was an exceptional husband and father, a gifted professor and mentor, a deeply devoted friend, and the most humble, highly accomplished individual imaginable. Paul treated everyone – no matter what their position or their age – like they really mattered; like their opinion counted. He always saw the very best in others, and he had a way of helping others to see the best in themselves. Paul was a person of incredible character and consciousness. He lived his life more fully, passionately, beautifully and brilliantly than anyone I can think of. He was, to me, and will always remain, a constant inspiration. I have had many friends over the years, but none that I have cherished more than Paul and Victoria. Every moment we shared seemed like a precious gift. I recall the Christmas of 1990 - our children were 3 and 6 years old and Paul and Victoria showed up at about midnight Christmas Eve dressed as Mr and Mrs Claus with a bag full of fun. They tried to wake up the kids, but they were both semi-comatose. In the morning, the kids thought they had been dreaming, but Paul and Victoria were instantly associated with excitement and adventure. I will never forget the days Paul spent out on the beach in Galiano teaching the children about the little creatures of the ocean, and many other curiosities of nature. He had a remarkable way of turning the most ordinary of things into magical experiences. His curiosity and enthusiasm for life were contagious. Paul sparked a love for science in our children and when the kids studied sciences at university, he was there with encouragement and advice, when they needed it most. He always made those around him feel empowered – like they could accomplish anything. Paul, you may have left us physically, but you will never leave our hearts. Your place there is assured. What an example you set; what a life you lived; what a legacy you left. You will be missed beyond words, my dear, sweet friend.

    Brenda Davis, Close friend
  • Wonderful memories over the years all the way back to 1973 when at 17 flew across the country with a friend to visit Vickie and Paul. We stayed about a week they were in their 30s took us jogging, mountain climbing etc. and we couldn't keep up doing either, they lapped us on the track and wore us totally out on the climbing. They introduced us to many natural foods and otherwise had a fab time. Many visits since in which we have been so blessed by them and greatly value the memories. The rich amounts of rich knowledge and wisdom Paul shared with us will be cherished. God Bless you our dear friend.

    Daryl Leigh, Married to my cousin Vicki
  • Very sad to hear of Paul's passing. I was an honours student of Paul's in 1980/81. He gave a young, inexperienced biologist a chance. My first scientific publication was with Paul and a PhD student of his. That work stemmed from many late Friday nights working in his lab and with his "auto-analyzer". It was a pleasure to work with him. He was a true gentleman scholar, so humble especially given his varied accomplishments. In large part because of Paul's very positive influence, academics became my own career at UBC and it was great to catch up with Paul and Victoria from time to time when they returned to Vancouver and visited the Beaty Museum. Eric Taylor Professor UBC Zoology

    Eric Taylor, former honours student
  • I cycled, hiked & skied with Paul and always enjoyed his happy & positive energy.

    Jean Covell, friend
  • I was deeply saddened and shocked to hear of Paul's passing. I have a few memories to share. Paul on the BC ferry, tucking into a 'Sunshine Breakfast' on our way to Bamfield Marine Station to teach a Seaweed Ecophysiology course. Paul and Victoria, who were so very welcoming when I arrived from Belfast in January 1991 - I stayed with them for a few days, and they even invited me to Paul's 50th birthday dinner, which I declined as I was a little shy! Two of the photos I uploaded are from the Oceanography Christmas party in Dec 1991. The Harrison lab performed a tribute to Paul as "Paul and the Paulettes". We each wore a beard and glasses. 'Paul' was John Berges, the 'Paulettes' included Mike St John, Deb Muggli, Diana Varela, Anne Fisher, and a couple of others that I can't make out, possibly Maude LeCourt. The third photo features the lab a few year's later, approx. 1995, and includes Ming, Allen Milligan, Kristen Drewes, David Crawford, Kedong Yin, Anthony Fielding, Philip Boyd and myself. Paul was an incredibly generous and supportive person, a wonderful mentor from the moment I walked into his lab. We worked on the Seaweed Ecology and Physiology book from 2008 - 2014, which was a tremendous experience. I learnt from Paul how to build a team, and get people working together for a common goal. When I started as a lecturer in New Zealand in 1995, I emailed him asking how he managed to stay so calm in such a stressful job. He replied that he was like a duck on water, calm on the surface but furiously paddling beneath to keep things going. This is a great analogy and I hope to have learnt the same technique, at least in front of my own students! Paul, I miss you.

    Catriona Hurd, Postdoc with Paul 1991-1995
  • Paul and I overlapped briefly in grad school at the University of Washington, but I got to know him much better when we team taught (with Karl Banse and Farooq Azam) a summer course at Friday Harbor Laboratories in 1982. That was a memorable and exciting summer, working closely with exceptional students and colleagues, and sharing time in that special place with our young families. We reconnected later in several summer teaching visits to Hong Kong, where Paul and Victoria were gracious hosts in showing us the sights around Hong Kong. For the best views, hikes to “heaven” (FHL) became upward mobility on the HK Peak Tram. With hundreds of publications and scores of students to his credit, Paul had an enormous impact on the field of algal ecophysiology and related disciplines. For me, and perhaps most who knew him, however, he will be remembered most for his enthusiastic, generous and gentle spirit. Although too soon, it is of some comfort that he was active and vibrant until the end, the way he will stay in the minds of the many who loved him and mourn his loss.

    Mike Landry, Colleague and friend
  • Paul was truly one of the "good guys" . He always had a twinkle in his eye, was always up for a good joke, had a wonderful zest for life and truly was interested in each and everyone he met. He has been in my life so many years and yet I never knew of so many of his accomplishments. Amazingly humble. Keith & I will miss him tremendously and think of his often with much love.

    Sharen Rowlandson, cousin by marriage
  • When students ask me for advice on choosing a university department for graduate studies — and even when they don’t — I tell them that the supervisor/mentor is the best predictor of a student’s success, even though the students do the work and develop their talents on their own. Paul Harrison tops the list of examples to support this unproven claim, and as his scientific legacy and testimonials from colleagues and mentees show, his influence extends well beyond the graduate students that he supervised. How can one person have such a strong and positive effect on so many, and on the course of science? As a colleague who interacted with Paul mostly from a distance, I think that it comes down to his deep knowledge of the science and his dedication to helping others, drawing on fundamental intellectual and personal generosity. First, the science, and just one of Paul’s specialties, phytoplankton. It’s one thing to study phytoplankton and quite another to “know bugs”. Paul knew bugs. That means he understood fundamentally what he was doing when he grew and experimented on phytoplankton in the laboratory and when he measured the distributions and activities of plankton in the ocean. Oddly enough, it’s possible to conduct highly relevant, technical research on phytoplankton without really understanding how it all works. I’ve discussed this with many colleagues over the years, and we agree that few researchers in the world really “know bugs”. And guess what? Many of those who know bugs studied with Paul, and surely most were strongly influenced by his work. Well beyond phytoplankton studies, Paul has helped many to be leaders in research or successful in whatever paths they have chosen. Paul’s publicly recognized contributions to science are just the tip of the iceberg. As professional scientists and many long-suffering partners can appreciate, besides devoting hours and hours helping others to improve their manuscripts, he must have invested enormous amounts of time and effort on important and helpful, yet often anonymous or invisible tasks such as writing countless letters of recommendation, nominating colleagues for awards, reviewing proposals and manuscripts, and serving as external examiner on thesis committees. His generous sharing of authoritative advice, carefully framed through a deep appreciation of how decision systems work, has had profound positive effects on the careers of many. From my end it is clear: Paul was a pro, and he was not in it for himself. It is still difficult for me to imagine not bumping into Paul Harrison at a meeting somewhere and joining him for lunch and a long conversation about just about anything, leaving me with much to think about and memories to cherish. But I will meet up with friends and colleagues that he has influenced. We will talk about all sorts of things, including Paul, knowing that in many ways, he will always be with us.

    John Cullen, Colleague, oceanographer
  • Pictures of Paul on Galiano Island, summer of 2016.

    Lee & Leona Bajer, Our son's Father-In-Law
  • I first met Paul and Victoria at my mom's house for Nancy(his niece) and Chris'(my brother's) rehearsal party. I never met a vegetarian before and did not know they were. I hoped they found enough food that night. They were always welcoming to our family, having my mom and I over to their home in Surrey for dinner. I've been to their cabin on Galiano. They worked so hard that weekend, I tried to hide most of the day. They were both walking encyclopedia Britannica's, I was stuffed with knowledge by the time I got home from our walks. I soaked it all up like a sponge. Paul had that glint in his eye and a thirst for knowledge and life. He will be terribly missed and our family is glad to have known him. Love from the Miotto's

    Deborah Miotto, through Nancy his niece
  • Paul, you truly are a remarkable person who imparted so much wisdom to all of us in your lab. Your gentle manner was a deceptively strong searchlight for me, as you guided me through phytoplankton physiology, but also so much more. How to interact with a wide range of researchers, how to be generous with time and resources, and to nurture up-and-coming scientists, thank you. I carry with me your warm and genial smile, whether on a rainy beach in Bamfield, or at a 'rookie' presentation at the weekly lab meetings, or at a dinner of Harrison alumni in downtown Honolulu. We miss you Paul. Philip Boyd

    Philip Boyd, Paul mentored me at UBC between 1992 and 1996
  • We remember Paul warmly as a friend. We shared family hospitality, a couple of strenuous walks, and many hours of conversation with both Victoria and Paul. Paul educated us patiently on the work he was doing and eagerly asked pertinent questions relating to our own interests. We will miss his cheery enthusiasm.

    Millie Morton & John Foster, Friends
  • Paul is a very nice person, a truly distinguished scholar and he serves as a role model for all of us. He worked closely with 29 scientists in our "Area of Excellence" team in Hong Kong for more than 10 years, and has made tremendous contributions to Hong Kong. He is well liked by ALL of us in Hong Kong. Despite he passed away, he remains alive in our hearts and memories. We will remember him as our good friend and mentor

    Rudolf Wu, Friend and colleague in Hong Kong
  • I was a younger graduate student in Oceanography at the University of Washington when Paul was finishing up and doing a post-doc. Working in the same lab with chemostats looking at nutrient limitation, I learned a lot from Paul about the science, but also about work life balance. I remember one memorable Saturday afternoon when his kids were racing rolling office chairs up and down the hall outside the lab while he quickly tended his chemostats. When I was a young researcher at Bigelow Lab in Maine and unable to fund a lab of my own, he made it possible for me to spend months at a time in his lab at UBC continuing some of that earlier research. Although I brought some of my own funding, I now know it was not nearly enough to cover the costs of me being in the lab. Working with his lab group at UBC was one of the most intellectually stimulating times in my life and I forged friendships that have continued to this day. Knowing that I was living in Vancouver away from home, he often invited me home for dinners with his family and, sometimes, other visiting scientists. He set a wonderful example of how to be an outstanding scientist, a wonderful advisor, and a kind human being. As others have said, the many, widespread, successful people whom he advised or with whom he collaborated are a living legacy of his impact.

    Quay Dortch, Colleague
  • We visited Paul and Vicki in Hong Kong in December 2007 and it is still one of the most memorable trips we've had as a family. This was Paul's last year at HKUST and he was extremely busy however Paul and Vicki were the most gracious hosts. We explored the city and enjoyed the local cuisine of which there we a few surprises for a traditional Canadian palate. We explored the islands and countryside with some spectacular hikes. Paul's profession and work locations made regular visits more challenging but we all made an effort to get together when Paul was in town. Family and friends were such an important part of Paul's life and we are going to miss him terribly.

    Andrew Mustard (Lisa, Shannon, Matthew), Nephew
  • I first met Paul when I was around 12 or 13 years old. Rachel, his daughter, and I used to play in the same orchestra, and Paul or Victoria used to drive us to and from practice. At that time, I had no idea he was such an accomplished professor. I used to call him “Mr. Harrison” though he probably was already a member of the Royal Society of Canada. Looking back, I am amazed how humble he was—he never told me to call him “Dr. Harrison” or “Professor Harrison.” When I was a high school senior, I wasn’t at all thinking about what to do after high school. Going to college was not on my radar. One day, Paul took me aside and told me that I should go to UBC. This may have been the most important career moment in my life. I heeded his advice, and for four years, we car pooled together to UBC from Surrey. Again, looking back, I realize now how valuable this time together was, to be able to learn what it is like to be in academia. During my grad school years, Paul and Victoria were in Hong Kong, and so we lost touch for a few years. When they came back to Vancouver, I was about to graduate, and so I again started talking to him regularly to get advice—what I should look for in a post-doc, etc. Throughout the next few years, he helped me so much with my career decisions. He has such a wonderful mentor and friend throughout my life and career; it is difficult to imagine what my life would have been without him!

    Shinjiro Sueda, mentee
  • I was one of Paul's grad students from 1988 to 1994, working on the chemical ecology between phytoplankton and zooplankton (can anyone remember feeding deterrents??). I remember those years as being some of the most exciting, and most challenging, years of my life, finding the balance between my intense yearning for knowledge, family commitments, and a taste for the adventuring life. Paul was a gentle and kind mentor, always a good listener, and a source of wise advice. I recall having long discussions with him in his office, often ranging widely over many topics. I always left feeling uplifted and centered, with a better grasp of the bigger picture. When I was a grad student, I always thought that I would become a professor at some university (I guess we all start out with big plans). Of course, life seldom goes they way we expect. Over the years, I've been many things - teacher, adventurer, independent scientist, advocate, homesteader - but never a professor. I am grateful to Paul for the grounding that he gave me which has allowed me to find my balance and make the right choices - I suspect that at the time he knew my path through life would be somewhat unorthodox! I'm very sad that I'll not have a chance to speak to Paul again, but his memories will live on, cherished in my heart.

    Barb Faggetter (Shaw), Grad Student
  • Some of many memories is: gathering the cows at Paul's parents' farm--haying (done only once!)--going in a 4H judging contest as a city slicker (came in last!) Paul and I drove a drive-away car from Detroit to Seattle in 1962 and then hitch-hiked back across Canada in time to start 4th year. We roomed together at Mills Hall in 4th year.

    Wayne Vernon Hillman, friend
  • Paul was a significant influence for me in my career path. I really enjoyed my studies under his supervision at UBC, he was so knowledgeable and such a kind man. I will always remember the wise advices of Dr. Harrison.

    Maude Lecourt, MSc. Student (1992-94)
  • I met Paul and Vicki Harrison when I was in graduate school in Oceanography at the University of Washington. Paul and I were in oceanography together and I knew immediately that Paul was a kind and gentle soul who would be great to work with. We did work together and when not working at school the three of us had many exciting adventures together. Paul and I ended up doing our Ph.D. theses with Dick Dugdale studying the factors controlling phytoplankton growth in the ocean; particularly the light and nutrients that limited growth in upwelling areas, the most productive regions of the ocean. The Science was exciting and so were the adventures from research cruises, to hiking, mountain climbing, skiing and white water kayaking. Wherever he went Paul always showed tireless energy and inspired the best in everyone he met. He is dearly missed and will always be in my heart from those wonderful days when we first met in graduate school so long ago.

    Curtiss Davis, fellow Graduate Student at UW
  • Paul had a keen analytical mind, but he always encouraged analysis and opinion from others. He looked for the best in the contributions of his students and colleagues, and helped us to be better scientists and better people. The success of Paul’s academic “family” is a tribute to the power of his altruistic approach in an often competitive scientific world. My years as a post-doc in Paul's lab were some of the most enjoyable and stimulating of my scientific career.

    John Parslow, Postdoc, 1981-84
  • It’s strange to me, the twists and turns our lives take. I had the very good fortune of meeting Paul in the spring of 1995. I had just completed my UBC undergraduate degree, which was a mighty struggle for me. I was an unremarkable student for the first 2.5 years of my time at UBC, but managed to turn things around (a bit, anyway) when I started taking classes in oceanography. My thought at the time I met Paul was to turn my bachelors into some sort of laboratory position with a provincial or federal agency. The truth is, I had not taken a class from Paul while I was in what was then the Department of Oceanography. However, I heard from another professor (Tim Parson, I think) that Paul was looking for a summer research assistant to work on measuring secondary productivity on Roberts Bank. Some lab experience, I thought. That’s just what I’d need to get a real-life lab job! I remember walking down to Paul’s office in April of 1995, no appointment necessary, in the bowels of the Biology Building, right next to the tunnel leading into the central courtyard. Paul was there eating his lunch, which I am now remembering he always brought to work in recycled sandwich bread bags. (I’m also remembering Paul’s sandwiches; they always seemed to contain way more lettuce than I’d ever seen between two slices of bread.) I explained my circumstances to Paul, complete with my confession of being a lackluster student. But if you give me this job, I assured him, I wouldn’t let you down. Much to my surprise, I got the job. Right there on the spot. I couldn’t quite believe it and, come to think of it, I still sorta’ can’t. I remember walking away from the “interview” thinking, surely, there’s some sort of trick. No trick. I started working in Paul’s lab that week. The routine was simple. Three or four times per month, usually in the middle of the night, on a Coast Guard hovercraft collecting samples on Roberts Bank. And then, as many days per week as it took counting and weighing amphipods and bivalves from the hundreds of kilos of mud brought back to the lab. It was the coolest job ever! I was a real-life lab scientist. I had arrived! Later that summer, around July maybe, I heard from my lab-mate that he was going to give Paul some bad news; he was going to turn down Paul’s offer to do his Masters degree on the very same amphipod-bivalve-mud project that I was working as an RA on. An opportunity! I’ll confess that I didn’t really know much about grad school, other than the fact that my undergrad TAs (like Paul’s former student, John Berges) all were grad students. But someone told me that it would be easier to get that laboratory job with a provincial or federal agency if I had a Masters instead of a Bachelors. That information in hand, down I marched to Paul’s basement office once again. When I asked about joining has lab as a Masters student, Paul told me he’d explore the possibility. A few anxious days later, he stopped by the lab and asked me to come down to his office for a talk. (These were the days before email, so if you wanted to talk to someone, you actually had to talk to them.) Paul wanted me to meet Colin Levings who was in his office at the time. Colin was a DFO scientist that was funding the amphipod-bivalve-mud project; if I could convince Colin that I had the right stuff, I’d be on my way to grad school. I’m blanking here; I don’t remember what actually happened in that meeting. But it must have gone okay because I started grad school with Paul in September. As neat as my tiny bit of bench space was in the amphipod-bivalve-mud lab (which I think was actually in Tim Parson’s old lab), Paul’s lab on the below-ground floor was dope. It was teeming with students, all of whom were helping one another. I still remember the faces in that lab like I was just there yesterday: Allen, Deb, Lauren, Robert, Anthony, Tony, Diana, Kedong, Ming, Nelson, Catriona, Mike, Philip, David, Joe (not me; a different one), Natalie. Shoot, people that weren’t even working with Paul seemed to hang out in his lab. Morale and comradery were always in abundance in Paul’s shop, thanks to the culture that Paul worked to cultivate. Paul’s lab made such an impression on me, that I’ve tried to replicate the feeling I had between 1995 and 1997 in every lab I’ve run ever since. Believe it or not, I’m a professor myself now. Had you told me on the day I first met Paul that it’s what I’d be doing today, I’d have thought you were on drugs. It’s still strange to me, the twists and turns that our lives take. I know now, what I had no way of knowing then: My two years with Paul, a delightful and wise man who was willing to take a chance on an academic loser, changed my life. In my two years working with Paul, he taught me everything I needed to know to build what turned into a successful and fun career: He taught me to let my questions guide my work. He taught me to trust my instincts, and to trust my colleagues. He taught me that no mistake in the lab, or in the field, was worth losing sleep over. He taught me that the really good advisors have their students’ backs. He taught me that science was secular, and that it could light the way. While I was Paul’s student, I also met my wife. I was sitting on the steps, outside the lab, and she just walked by. A beautiful stranger. No Paul, no wife. And, let’s be honest, no Paul, no life; at least not the life I’ve come to know and enjoy. When I learned of Paul’s passing from Rachel, I got up from my desk at the University of Michigan, shut my office door, and quietly cried. I wasn’t ready for this news, and I’m still not. Paul, you changed my life. I will never be able to thank you enough.

    Joe Arvai, MSc Student (1995-1997)
  • I was a post-doc when I submitted an abstract to an ASLO meeting in Canada. Though I spent the entire meeting in the dissolved organic carbon session, my talk on dissolved organic nitrogen (DON) was bumped to a catch all session that Paul had been asked to chair as a service to the society. My talk was literally the last talk of the meeting because most sessions ended before my talk started. It was preceded by a talk on microbial films on gravel that the person never showed up to deliver. It had all the makings of a train wreck. I will never forget how charming and gracious Paul was throughout the entire session. I had been really excited about the DON uptake work I was presenting, and he got excited with me. From that day on I always felt Paul was looking out for me. We would catch up at each meeting, he gave me advice on how to interview for my first job, and he invited me to UBC where I gave my first invited seminar. We talked about science and life and usually ended up laughing. He was a wonderful human being, and I adored him. The oceanographic community and the planet have lost a real gem. My very best wishes go out to his family, friends, students and colleagues at this sad, sad time.

    Deborah Bronk, Friend and colleague
  • It was an honor to have known Paul. As a contemporary, he was always co-operative and rational in his approach to scientific problems and of great benefit to international discussions. He was a compassionate person who understood the competing views of his colleagues. He is greatly missed by all who knew him.

    Tim Parsons, contemporary scientist
  • Paul and I were involved in many projects through our careers, starting with CEPEX in the 1970s. In the 1980s, we worked on a coastal pollution program in southern China. In thanks for Canadian contributions to Chinese research, we and our wives were hosted to a tour along their coast up to Beijing. Then came JGOFS, with many of Paul's students participating with us along Line P. We built a good working relationship which paid off when a large iron fertilization project was funded in the early 2000s. All this aside, one of the best times I shared with Paul was when we shared a room in Seoul to keep expenses low while attending a conference. We stayed away from the main meeting area, in an older district in the city. Each morning, we'd stroll the streets looking for our breakfast. In the week we were there, we became part of the morning scene at a little park, which prompted some of the locals to ask us where we were from. A lovely memory of a quiet oasis in a large city, shared with a quiet man. Frank Whitney

    Frank Whitney, collaborator
  • I'll miss Paul tremendously, and his gentle way of teasing the best out of everyone. I was lucky to have co-taught with him in Hong Kong, and my wife and I are fortunate to have been friends with Paul and Victoria. His thoughts and writing were relentlessly practical, but I hope he'll forgive a bit of poetry: may ethereal winds guide you to new seas, Paul. .... I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky, And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by; And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking, And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking. I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied; And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying, And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying. I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life, To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife; And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover, And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

    John Milton, friend and colleague
  • Paul created a remarkable atmosphere of friendship and collaboration in his lab. Here's a photo from the celebration after my PhD defence at Paul's house. From the left, Phil Boyd, me, Catriona Hurd and Dave Montagnes. Phil, Catriona and Dave and I have not only remained close over the years, but have collaborated and published together.

    John A Berges, PhD Student 1989-2004
  • It is impossible for me to overstate the support and mentorship that Paul has provided for me throughout the years I have known him. I was drifting along through my degree getting decent marks but not really knowing what the end goal was. One of the things required for the degree is an honours thesis. In the summer of 1989, I proceeded to start asking different professors within the oceanography department whether they were taking in any students as research assistants for the summer. As it turned out, Paul was on sabbatical at Scripps Institute down in San Diego at the time, but he did indeed have a research assistant position that he was hoping to fill for the summer. I interviewed for it with his lab manager Peter Clifford and, probably much to everyone’s surprise, was actually offered the position. So Paul essentially hired me sight unseen until he returned from sabbatical that summer. This research position was the first time for me in a lab and it really transformed me, sparking my passion for science. As I recall, there was not even a master student in the lab, and everyone else was a PhD student or above. What I really remember was the easy-going attitude in the lab, and how I wasn’t made to feel as a tiny cog in the machine and way down in the pecking order. The big project that summer was a three week research cruise in the Strait of Georgia between Vancouver and Vancouver Island, and I had the awesome experience of pretending to be a young Jacques Cousteau doing research on the water. One of the things I remember about Paul was meeting him for the first time when he returned from sabbatical. I remember the warm way he shook my hand and how he instantly accepted me as an important and integral member of his team. I remember also his openness and availability any time I needed to ask him anything, along with all the little chats that we had during that three week cruise. What I also learned from Paul that summer was the importance of family and treating the lab as a family also. He would host events for the entire lab at his house, which was where I met his lovely wife Victoria, or else we would have evening picnics down at Jericho Beach. After the summer, Paul gave me the opportunity to do my honours thesis with them. Crazy as it sounds, my data collection involves sending me by myself up to a fish farm up Indian Arm accessible only by water taxi, and I was entrusted with a lot of his very expensive equipment all by myself with just a leaky rowboat (with only one oar! Try rowing with just one oar AND bailing at the same time in a thunderstorm!) getting me from shore to the data collection site. This was right at the end of August, and I spent the first four months of my final year doing pretty much nothing except for accounting and tallying up different categories of phytoplankton under a microscope of about a billion water samples. I was hooked! I remember the love that Paul had for science and the encouragement that he provided me throughout this process. I also remember the talks that we had about future opportunities for me and how to build an academic career that we shared. But for me, what really made Paul so special in my life is the continued support and encouragement that he provided me in the years AFTER I left his lab. Even though I completely switched fields to kinesiology, Paul’s support for me throughout my graduate studies and early faculty career was unbelievable. He was always ready and willing to write support letters for my various scholarship and even Dalhousie faculty applications, and throughout the years he would send me emails to check up on how I was doing and to offer support and advice as needed. Keep in mind that I was “merely” an undergraduate who spent one year in his lab and then moved on to a completely different field that he had no background in. Above all, my favourite and most special memory of Paul came in 2008. At that time, he had moved on to Hong Kong, but he and Victoria were back in Canada for about two weeks of holidays, and some of that time was spent visiting family in Ontario. So during this time, I got an email from Paul out of the blue saying that he was in Ontario, and that he would really love to come in and visit me at Brock. Again, given the small academic footprint I had in the grand scheme of Paul’s amazing career, I still see it as such an honour that he would devote one of his precious few days back in Canada to spend with me and to see the work that I was doing. That will stay with me forever. Since the 2008 visit, whenever I returned to Vancouver to visit my parents, the only two non family visits that are essential for me is really with one high school friend along with Paul and Victoria. In 2013, my older boy Zachary and I joined Paul and Victoria for a massive snowshoe expedition up on Cypress Mountain, and I remember the glee and joy that we all had butt sliding down the mountain for good chunks of the return hike. My last visit with Paul and Victoria came this past May. We spent about three hours walking all through the beautiful UBC campus along with Pacific Spirit Park, then we went back and made a great meal at their apartment. An amazing man we will all miss.

    Stephen Cheung, Undergraduate student
  • I have the pleasure of working with Paul in the last several years in the teaching of the University of Hong Kong experiential learning course in Vancouver. Paul was passionate in his efforts and his teaching had tremendous positive effects on our students. We are extremely grateful for this. Personally I have shared and interacted with Paul on our ideas about science education and I was greatly impressed by his dedication to education. Just last summer we were talking about possible future collaborations and I was shocked to hear in December that I won't be seeing him when we teach our course again this summer. I am very sorry that I will not be able to make a trip to Vancouver to participate in the celebration of Paul's life on March 26. Although I have not known Paul for too long, but I consider Paul as my good friend. He will be forever in my heart.

    Sun Kwok, colleague and friend
List of Donors
All Donors
  • John A Berges

  • Eliza Tang

  • Brenda Harrison

  • Isao Kudo

  • muriel hemmes

  • Anonymous Donation

  • Laura Wegener Parfrey

  • Gwen Torrie

  • Muhammad Iqbal

  • Robert Smurthwaite

  • Janet Barwell-Clarke

  • Stephen Cheung

Add your memory

Contribute to keep telling this story

Give in memory of Paul J. Harrison and help keep their passion alive through UBC
Drop files here or
Accepted file types: jpg, jpeg, png, gif, bmp, tiff, tif, svg, webp, Max. file size: 4 GB.
    This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.