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Remembering Dr. Nicholas Hughes:
January 17, 1962 - March 16, 2009

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Nicholas Hughes

Nicholas Hughes in 2000 in his office on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus. Photo by Dave Partee.


Hughes earned his bachelor of science degree (1984) and his master of arts degree (1990) at the University of Oxford in Oxford, England. After coming to Alaska, Hughes studied with Jim Reynolds and received his Ph.D. in 1991 at UAF. Hughes became an assistant professor of fisheries at UAF in September 1998. Hughes was an expert in stream salmonid ecology and conducted research both in Interior Alaska and New Zealand. He resigned from his faculty position at UAF in December 2006 but continued to pursue his scientific interests until his death in March 2009.

Memories of Nick Hughes from UAF faculty, staff and students:

"The thing I remember most about Nick Hughes was that he would seek out a larch tree in a forest of spruce. Alaska could use more biologists like Nick who still display wonder at the small things around them." -- Lauren Tuori

"The thing I loved most about Nick was his passion for everything he did.  He loved fish and was an encyclopedia of fish natural history.  He was brilliant and creative and patient and kind, and he always made time to sit down with a cup of tea and help me with anything: questions about class, working out a study design, writing computer code, building sampling equipment, chatting about fish or life.  I always looked forward to seeing Nick, and never walked away from a conversation with him without learning something new and without being inspired by his endless energy to explore and learn and create and live the life he wanted to live.  He will be dearly missed by many students whose lives he touched." -- Bessie Green, graduate student, UAF Biology and Wildlife

"One of the fond memories that I have of Nick was that he would open his Fish Ecology class each week with a list of books that everyone should read. Some were topic related, some were not, all were fantastic. In speaking with several generations of SFOS students, all remember Nick's class as the best that they had at UAF. He pushed you and made you think for yourself, and in the end you thanked him for it. Those little things make all the difference. A good person and a brilliant mind are lost to our world." --Scott Ayers, graduate student, UAF SFOS

"On the night of the summer solstice last year, Nick stayed out with me doing field work until after 3 a.m.  It took a long time because we took so many breaks to just fish-watch and brainstorm together.  I learned much more from those "breaks" than from my intended data.  I remember, soon thereafter, trying to sell some colleagues on the idea of spending more absurdly late nights 'just watching fish.'  Looking out for our fellows who have lives apart from fish, one of them said, 'But Nick actually LIKES that stuff!'  That really stuck with me, because it made me realize what rare luck I had to find a mentor who really was happy to be in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the night, watching fish with his student.  There's no more fitting tribute than that." --Jason Neuswanger, Ph.D. student of Nick's

"Nick was a wonderful professor and a kind man. His lectures were infused with wit. He was on my committee and was able to bait my brain into thinking more critically about processes in the natural world. That was what I had hoped to get from a graduate degree and he delivered it with a twinkle in his eye. I am glad to have known him and he is sorely missed." -- Sam Decker, graduate student

"When I heard of Nick's passing I was shocked and saddened. I never knew Nick personally nor was I one of his students. I don't even know if he would remember me. I worked as the front desk receptionist at the UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences a few years ago. It was my first job right out of college. I was so awestruck by the professors and people around me. I felt like "the child" in the midst of all these professionals. As the front desk person I had to smile and make chit-chat with people as they came into the office to get their mail or wait for a meeting. Oftentimes the professors would talk about the projects they were working on, or some research they were doing. To me, someone whose degree was business, I felt uneasy and nervous talking with them as they were talking about things far out of my scope. But Nick, he wasn't like that. Sure he COULD talk about those things and sometimes did, but maybe he could tell as interested as I was, I just didn't get it all the time, so we could chat about the weekend and the weather. For me, just knowing that there was someone that would take the time to "good morning/afternoon" was a warm welcome. Nick was someone that could do just that. Simple, yet for a newbie it made a lasting impression. I wasn't impressed by his great work as a researcher or inspired by watching him teach; my memories are for a man who wasn't too big to say hello to someone smaller. I remember a nice man." --Poppy Hochstetler, former staff member, SFOS

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