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Items: Dick Wilmot Retires After 37 Years of Federal Service

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dick wilmot

Richard (Dick) Wilmot, head of the Auke Bay Laboratories (ABL) Genetics Program, retired on 2 May 2008 after 37 years of Federal service.

Dick came to the Auke Bay Laboratory in Juneau, Alaska, in 1992, where he oversaw development of pink, chum, sockeye, and Chinook salmon genetic baselines for the U.S./Canada Salmon treaty. During that time, he hosted Russian scientists in order to expand the baselines to include the entire North Pacific Rim. Numerous other studies ensued: chum bycatch issues in western Alaska circa 1994–96, extension of the sockeye and Chinook baseline using Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) markers, hosting Korean scientists to assist in development of chum SNP markers, and utilization of microsatellite markers for pilot studies on forage fish.

Dick also served as the National Marine Fisheries Service representative on the Yukon River Joint Technical Committee, an advisor to the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission, and was an adjunct professor of University of Alaska Fairbanks, advising graduate students. Dick earned his bachelor’s degree in 1961 from Colorado State University. He served as a military intelligence officer in the U.S. Army from 1961 to 1964 and returned to Colorado State University in 1964 to obtain his master’s degree. In 1972 Dick received his Ph.D. in genetics from Oregon State University.

For several years following his post graduate studies, Dick worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) on the Upper Columbia River in a regulatory capacity. But in 1977 Alaska called. Dick responded by moving his wife and two sons (the youngest 2 weeks old) to Anchorage to start the Alaska field station of the USFWS Western Fish Disease Laboratory. Dick supervised the program for 15 years, overseeing genetic studies in North Slope Arctic char, Kenai River Chinook, Katmai steelhead trout, declining sockeye stocks in the Karluk River/Lake system, and Yukon River chum and Chinook. He also was involved in the first radio telemetry projects on Kenai Chinook and Copper River steelhead and the first habitat study of juvenile chinook and coho on the Kenai River.

When asked about the most challenging moments of his career (other than trying to comprehend the NOAA budget software), Dick paused and then spoke of his fruitless attempts to rescue wildlife when the Snake River was flooded for hydroelectric power. When asked about his most memorable moments, he responded without hesitation about the beautiful wilderness of Karluk Lake. His proudest accomplishment was completion of the Yukon River salmon stock identification work. Dick’s retirement plans call for traveling the States to visit relatives. His wife Barbara, of Norse descent, will most certainly be dragging him to the Sons of Norway celebration in Minot, North Dakota, in the fall. Lots and lots of fishing is planned, a trip to Greece, and a long train ride across southern Canada, turning south in pursuit of the fall colors. A large “honey-do” list is waiting, as is time with his two sons Ronnie and Michael. And with a twinkle in his eye, more time with his granddaughter. When his colleagues were asked what they would miss most about Dick, their overwhelming response was “his patience, humility, and kindness.” Richard Wilmot will be deeply missed.

By Sharon Wildes

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