Save the date: Ceremony for dedication of Brinson-Christian Ecology Laboratory planned for March 18.

Brinson-Christian Room-Naming: March 18, 2011

3:00-4:00pm Ceremony and Speeches

Sci-Tech Room 207

3:00-3:05pm: Welcome from Jeff McKinnon

3:05-3:15pm: Memories of Prof. Brinson from SWS colleague, Pat Megonigal

3:15-3:25pm: Memories of Prof. Brinson from former student Paul Farley

3:25-3:35pm: Memories of Prof. Brinson from Prof. Stan Riggs

3:35-3:45pm: Remarks on dedication of room from Vice-Chancellor Deirdre Mageean

3:45-3:55pm: Remarks on dedication of room from THCAS Dean Alan White

3:55-4:00pm: Concluding remarks from Biology Advancement Council President Judy Heath, presentation of plaques

4:00-5:00pm: Reception

Howell Science Complex N109 and Lobby, S309, now the Brinson-Christian Ecology Laboratory, open for visits

Dr. Mark M. Brinson, 67, passed away unexpectedly on Monday, January 3, 2011. Many wetland and coastal ecologists lost a friend that day. We also lost a thoughtful, hardworking and creative wetland ecologist who not only advanced wetland science but also provided important links between science and environmental management.

Many of us have a feeling of admiration for the naturalist who can walk through a habitat and identify the various species, give information on their adaptive physiology and anatomy, and discuss co-dependence and co-evolution with other species.

Mark could do this, especially in coastal and riparian wetlands, but he also was a naturalist of ecosystems. He had a unique perspective on the interrelationships between their physical, chemical and biological components. He could intuit the manner how materials could be processed and relate these processes to hydrology. This perspective guided his research, teaching and contributions to environmental management. It was central to his organizing principles of how wetlands function.

Mark’s graduate students recited a manta of “Characterize and classify.” This was at the heart of many of their theses and the basis for his very significant contributions to the Hydrogeomorphic Classification of wetlands (HGM). HGM in turn associates with functional assessment and mitigation procedures based on functional loss. This approach greatly changed the environmental management of wetlands within the USA and beyond. Mark spent much of the past two decades leading efforts in the use of HGM and functional assessment.

But Mark felt that the most important contribution of HGM was the use of reference. He posited that for wetland mitigation one needs to know the variability of both minimally impacted and impacted ecosystems within a regional hydrogeomorphic class. Restoration decisions can then be based on differences between conditions within this context. His interest in the use of reference extended beyond wetland management, however, to other areas: from landscape management to scoring faculty productivity for annual raises.

Evaluating variability of ecosystems generally involves considerable effort. And Mark never backed down from expending the necessary effort. He was known by some as “mad dog” for his tenacity. And as an example, few others would have established a 1600 m transect through a Juncus roemerianus marsh to be sampled weekly for over 3 years. Mark did! As most, older academic ecologists know; the more senior you are, the less time you have to be in the field. Mark cherished his time in the field and managed to leave the computer and desk as often as he could. Sample collection on a project was as likely to be done by him as any student or colleague. He was a model of how one can preserve that enthusiasm for nature so easily lost with inside obligations.

Mark’s legacy can be found in various arenas. He taught numerous courses and workshops on wetlands and ecosystem ecology at ECU, nationally and internationally. He co-authored and edited publications on wetlands with a who’s who of wetland ecology. Further, he served as a technical consultant to the US Environmental Protection Agency, US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Smithsonian Institute. He also was elected to President of the Society of Wetland Scientists and served on its Board of Directors for several years.

Mark’s national honors include the National Wetlands Award for Science Research, co-sponsored by the Environmental Law Institute and the Environmental Protection Agency, and Fellowship of the Society of Wetland Scientists. He, also, used a Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Award at the University of Buenos Aires to aid in the development of the environmental management of wetlands within Argentina.

Mark is survived by his wife of 40 years, Leslie Brinson, of Greenville, NC: his son, Peter Brinson and wife, Suzanne; and granddaughter, Sylvie, all of Pasadena, CA;

One final note of interest to his friends within SWS: Mark was wearing his 2010 SWS Conference T-shirt when he passed away. He was a loyal member to the end.

In lieu of flowers, please send a contribution towards scholarships for ECU Biology students, checks should be made out to “ECU Foundation, Inc., Biology Scholarship Fund” and include “In memory of Mark Brinson” on memo line. Please send to Tammy Garris, ECU Director of Gift Records, Greenville Centre, 2200 S. Charles Blvd., Greenville, NC 27858.

Bob Christian

January 5, 2011