Respected oceanographer and passionate science advocate Tom Malone passes away

February 26, 2024
Tom Malone, faculty emeritus and former Horn Point Laboratory Director, passed away.

The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) mourns the death of an iconic scientist, leader, colleague and friend, Tom Malone. He was an UMCES Emeritus Professor following a distinguished career in biological oceanography, holding various regional, national and international leadership positions throughout his career.

Tom Malone was born in the San Francisco Bay area of California. He went to Colorado College for his undergraduate degree in zoology where he met the love of his life, Mary Lou. Tom attended the University of Hawaii where he obtained his master’s degree in oceanography and then Stanford University for his Ph.D. in biology, awarded in 1971. During his doctoral studies, Tom sailed aboard the Te Vega, a 135’ double masted schooner conducting scientific research in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. Following his Ph.D., Tom and Mary Lou moved to the New York City metropolitan area where Tom taught and conducted research at City College of New York. Tom later held two other positions in the region, at Columbia University’s Lamont Doherty Geological Observatory and the Brookhaven National Laboratory before coming to Maryland. Tom’s research centered around phytoplankton, the tiny photosynthetic organisms that comprise the base of the oceanic food web. He also became an expert in the over-enrichment of nutrients in the coastal ocean.

Tom joined the faculty at Horn Point Laboratory in 1982 and had an immediate positive impact on the laboratory’s research programs and research collaborations. He was elected chair of the UMCES faculty senate and was asked to step in as head of UMCES for two years after the sudden passing of Ian Morris in 1988. When Don Boesch was hired as UMCES president in 1990, Tom helped ensure a smooth transition and became the director of the Horn Point Laboratory, a position he held until 2001. During his tenure as the Horn Point director, he expanded the laboratory’s faculty and facilities, and extended the research and education programs. Tom was successful in initiating and leading a number of large UMCES team science research projects in Chesapeake Bay and, more broadly, in coastal waters of the United States. He was elected President of the American Association of Limnology and Oceanography and he chaired numerous scientific committees established to improve our understanding of coastal seas around the world. Tom received the University System of Maryland Board of Regents award for outstanding public service for his national and international leadership in helping develop coastal observing networks.

Tom became passionate about ocean observing systems and served on national and international teams to advance observing networks, based in Washington, D.C., until 2010. He had an active retirement as he continued to publish scientific papers and serve on various science advisory boards. Tom and his family were avid skiers, often traveling to Steamboat Springs, Colorado, with family and friends for ski trips. He and Mary Lou continued to live in Talbot County, Maryland, following his retirement, and Tom’s daughter Kelley Malone served on the Easton Town Council. Mary Lou was on the Salisbury University and Chesapeake College faculties. Mary Lou, Kelley, and son Michael were able to be with Tom in his final days in the hospital following a fall at home.

Tom has been described as a thought leader, a passionate science advocate, and a distinguished hippie. He loved telling good stories, sharing meals with friends, waxing poetic about nature and philosophy, and spending time on Chesapeake Bay. He will be sorely missed by all who had the good fortune of knowing this very special man.

 This tribute was written by University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Professor and Interim President Bill Dennison.