Dick Laws was the leading marine mammalogist of his generation, developing in the Antarctic new techniques and approaches to population studies, notably with elephant seals and great whales. He later pioneered similar approaches with large mammals, especially elephants, in Africa before returning to the UK as Head of Life Sciences, then Director, of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). His inspirational and unequivocal leadership saw BAS and its science develop and flourish, both in difficult times and through the major reorganization and expansion to fulfil its enhanced role and responsibilities after the Falklands conflict. He was a staunch supporter and leading advocate of the Antarctic Treaty System and was hugely instrumental in the development of the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals and of the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. He led the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (eventually as its president) into ground-breaking collaborative programmes of research into the biological oceanography of the Southern Ocean in support of the sustainable management of its living resources. On retirement from BAS he became Master of St Edmund's College, Cambridge, presiding over its transition to an institution fully integrated into the collegiate system of the university. He also served with distinction in Cambridge University affairs generally. An imposing and charismatic individual of total probity and conviction, loyalty and dedication, greatly admired by friends and colleagues, respected by opponents, he leaves an unrivalled legacy to the population ecology and management of large mammals and to the science, conservation and management of the Antarctic.
- © 2015 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society