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New OSC director takes office

Dr. Garth Fletcher

By Kelly Foss

It’s hard to think of someone who has a longer history with the Ocean Sciences Centre (OSC) than Dr. Garth Fletcher. Dr. Fletcher joined the OSC in 1971 and has been there ever since, first as a research scientist through to professorship, to honorary professor, and finally as professor emeritus.

“I never really left the place,” said Dr. Fletcher. “At the time of mandatory retirement, I had NSERC grants, four fully funded graduate students, a postdoctoral fellow, a research associate and a number of research assistants, so I wasn’t going anywhere! I refused to have a goodbye party – there was no point.”

The discontinuation of mandatory retirement in 2007 gave him the chance to come back to the OSC in a new role as director, a position Dr. Fletcher took over on July 1. He said that a deep love for the OSC and the people who work there drew him to take a more active role in ensuring its continued success.
“When the opportunity to stand as director came up, I thought long and hard about what I could offer the OSC in this new role. I talked with my colleagues, my students and my wife, and in the end, I decided this was something worth doing.

“It’s a unique facility,” he added. “It’s really a community. The faculty, technicians, grad students and staff get along very well and it’s small enough that you know who everyone is. I love this place. It feels like home.”

Over the next three years, Dr. Fletcher hopes to build on successes like the recent announcement of $6.5 million from the federal government for new state-of-the-art facilities for the study of cold-water and deep-sea organisms and ecosystems at the OSC, located in Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove.

“We need to secure additional funding for the new building,” he said. “Getting the building completed is a project that’s going to take two to three years to do. I’d also like to see the development of a graduate program for the OSC. Three years is really a short time to accomplish everything.”

Most importantly, he feels his main role is to promote his researchers and provide any assistance needed for them to reach their greatest potential.
Dr. Fletcher completed his B.Sc. at the University of British Columbia, followed by a PhD at the University of California -- Santa Barbara. He started his working career with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, then known as the Fisheries Research Board of Canada, in Halifax before coming to Memorial in 1971.

He is also a founder and past president/CEO of the Canadian branch of A/F Protein and of Aqua Bounty, two biotechnology companies based on Dr. Fletcher’s long term studies of fish antifreeze proteins and the use of gene transfer techniques to improve productivity in aquaculture.