Obituary of Dr. John R. N. Lazier: November 1, 1936 – March 9, 2021

– By Blair Greenan, Allyn Clarke and John Loder –

We were saddened to learn of the passing of Dr. John Lazier on March 9, 2021. John was one of the original employees hired in 1960 during the establishment of the Bedford Institute of Oceanography (BIO), which opened in October 1962. He completed his M.Sc. on the physical oceanography of the Jervis Inlet system at the University of British Columbia in 1963. In the late 1960s, John moved to Southampton, UK to pursue his Ph.D. involving studies of internal waves. He returned to Halifax and BIO in October 1970 as a research scientist. John retired in 1994 after 34 years of service and continued to contribute to the broad scientific community as a DFO Emeritus Scientist until 2008.

Early in his career, John was the Chief Scientist on the winter survey of the subpolar North Atlantic Ocean. This work provided the science community with the first truly winter survey of the entire subpolar gyre. The survey data was published as an atlas and was well regarded by international scientists. This also resulted in a classic paper by John on the formation of Labrador Sea Water, which is still being referenced today.

A black and white photo of a man receiveing an award from another man
John Lazier (left) accepting the J. P. Tully Medal from Peter Zwack at the 31st CMOS Congress in Saskatoon, SK.

During his career, John made major contributions to our modern understanding of the Labrador Sea and surrounding areas, including the role and variability of deep convection, and the structure and variability of the Labrador Current. These are very important to both Atlantic Canadian waters downstream, and the broader North Atlantic subpolar gyre and global ocean overturning circulation. Through his ongoing and congenial leadership of many BIO ocean expeditions, often involving visiting scientists from other leading oceanographic institutes, John made a key contribution to one of BIO’s most significant programs pertaining to the ocean and global climate variability (including programs like the World Ocean Circulation Experiment, WOCE).

John also co-authored a widely respected book with Ken Mann entitled “Dynamics of Marine Ecosystems” which provides a comprehensive overview of the effects of biological–physical interactions in the oceans from the microscopic to the global scale. This book was first published in 1991 and was updated in two more editions over the following fifteen years. The authors received the Government of Canada Merit Award for this work.

John was awarded the J. P. Tully medal in 1997 for his scientific contributions to Canadian oceanography. In addition to his scientific achievements, he is fondly remembered as a congenial colleague and mentor of young scientists, many of whom sailed with him as Chief Scientist.

John was truly a BIO pioneer and a major force in ocean climate studies and we would encourage you to read more about his life here.

Bedford Institute of Oceanography, John Lazier, obituary

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