Delft, The Netherlands, 06 Jun 2016

UNESCO-IHE Honorary Fellow Prof. Brian Moss passed away

On 27 May 2016, Em. Professor Brian Moss passed away. In 2014 he was awarded Honorary Fellowship of the Institute. Prof. Moss was known for his research on the nutrient enrichment of shallow lakes through an ecosystem approach. His work covered all parts of the globe, lakes as well as rivers and the landscapes that shape them. Ken Irvine, Professor of Aquatic Ecosystems at UNESCO-IHE wrote an obituary about Brian Moss.

It is with sadness and regret that we learned of the death of Prof Brian Moss, a long standing friend and supporter of UNESCO-IHE. In 2014 Brian was awarded Honorary Fellowship of the Institute. In typical modesty he greeted the news with “I am honoured! The graduation ceremony sounds fun and my robes have not yet got moths”. He was used to awards. They included some of the most prestigious that the global community of Freshwater Science could bestow, but he was more interested in science and teaching than in accolades.

In 2013 he gave the keynote speech at UNESCO-IHE PhD week with the talk the bloodstream of the Earth: a journey to the heart, in which he described the water cycle as the bloodstream of the Earth. As usual he was precise in his delivery, and inspirational. That was his greatest talent perhaps. In the Graduation ceremony of 2014 where he received the Honorary Fellowship, he again spoke with passion and conviction to our new MSc graduates. His lectures fired people up, from undergraduate classes of 30, to international conferences of over a thousand. For Brian it was just the same. His last visit to the Institute, about one year ago, was to teach in the Environmental Science programme, conveying difficult principles as if they were easy concepts.

Retiring from the University of Liverpool in U.K. in 2008 relieved him from, in his own words, tedious bureaucracy, and allowed more time for writing: producing in 2010 the 4th revision of his classic text book Ecology of Freshwaters; in 2013 the book Liberation Ecology: The Reconciliation of Natural and Human Cultures; and in 2014 Lakes, Loughs and Lochs (a play on the different names for lakes in the British Isles). The proofs of the 5th edition of the text book were delivered to him just before he died. Knowing that his time was limited he made a determined effort to finish the book. He told me “I have never written so quickly”.

Brian’s real legacy though are the students and colleagues whom he encouraged and inspired, and his natural challenge of the status quo. He believed in his subject and viewed world leadership as incapable of solving the current environmental challenges. In his bio for the UNESCO-IHE PhD week keynote three years ago, he included “Change will have to come from the bottom-up, from the people, since the top-down approach will continue to fail us. In this, scientists have a duty to move from their concentration on small problems and their personal advancement, to a wider view and a role in education and leadership, if we are to have a reasonably comfortable future”.

It is a fitting sentiment to remember him by.

Brain Moss, freshwater ecologist, great teacher and friend: July 6th 1943 to May 27th 2016. 

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