In Memoriam: Dr. Joe Brown

After graduating from high school in Grey, Maine, Joe came to Canada and completed a B.Sc. degree at St. Francis Xavier University in 1968. He then served for two years in the US army at the invitation of Uncle Sam, after which he took advantage of the opportunity afforded by the G.I Bill and began graduate studies at Memorial University of Newfoundland. At Memorial he initially worked with Dr. John Lien on seagull behaviour but soon became interested in the behavioural ecology of fish. Under the guidance of Dr. John Green, Joe studied aggression and territoriality in the arctic shanny, and received his M.Sc. degree in 1976. Following two years working as a farm labourer, laboratory demonstrator and museum curator in Nova Scotia, Joe joined Dr. Patrick Colgan’s research group at Queen’s University and was awarded the Ph.D. degree in 1983 for his thesis on the behavioural ontogeny of centrarchid fish. He remained at Queen’s for a further year as a postdoctoral research fellow, mentored by Dr. Peter Johansen, before returning to Memorial in 1984 to rejoin Dr. Green’s laboratory as a Research Associate. Joe was appointed to the faculty of the Ocean Sciences Centre (then the Marine Sciences Research Laboratory) in 1985, and was promoted to the rank of Professor in 2000. He recently served a term as Associate Director and also a period as interim Director. Joe’s terms of reference on appointment were to set up a strong research programme in his field, the behavioural ecology of fish, and to use this as a platform to support the emerging aquaculture industry in the Province. He applied himself to this task with considerable energy and enthusiasm, and over the next twenty years established himself as one of Canada’s leading researchers in fish behaviour and an outstanding figure in aquaculture related research, authoring or co-authoring over a hundred articles in scientific journals as well as numerous reports and contributions to scientific conferences and workshops.

Joe was one of those marine scientists who recognised the potential of fish farming to complement capture fisheries, and was totally committed to research and development in finfish aquaculture. His work on rearing the Atlantic cod has been instrumental in taking cod farming to the developmental stage in the field, and he was actively pursuing this research at the time of his death. Joe made sure that his aquaculture work was not conducted in the ivory tower, always seeking commercial applications for his research, and he worked closely with many partners in the private sector and government agencies. His ability to acquire research funding from a myriad of sources was legendary. He was an excellent communicator, a skill that he fully exploited as a tireless advocate of fish farming. Joe was frequently sought out by the media, and enjoyed a high profile both inside and outside the university. Joe travelled widely, visiting Norway, Sweden, Brazil, Malawi and many other places, working with colleagues on theoretical and applied problems in fish behaviour and aquaculture while sharing new cultures and making lifelong friends. Although his work had a significantly international dimension, it was at home in Newfoundland and Labrador that Joe was most content, doing what he could to assist the aquaculture industry at both the provincial and the national level.

His efforts and achievements were recognised through awards from the Canadian Centre for Fisheries Innovation (Researcher of the Year, 1998) and the Aquaculture Association of Canada (Research Award of Excellence, 2001), and in 2002 the Canadian Foundation for Innovation formally recognised him as one of Canada’s leading aquaculture scientists. It was as an advisor and mentor of students, however, that Joe made his most enduring contribution. He was devoted to them, both undergraduates and graduates, and they to him. Students flocked to join his group, and his large “stable” of graduate students became one of the pillars of the Ocean Sciences Centre. He attracted many international students, especially from developing countries. He always had time for students, both in the laboratory and outside, and they were a central part of his lively social life. He encouraged them to attend scientific meetings, and made it possible for them to travel. Joe enjoyed teaching and played a leading role in several graduate programmes at Memorial, especially the M.Sc. in Aquaculture and the M.Sc. and Ph.D. in Biology and in Cognitive and Behavioural Ecology. To his colleagues, Joe was a tireless, consummate “team player” who did not shirk administrative tasks, serving on numerous departmental and university committees as well as those of national research programmes such as AquaNet. He was President of the Aquaculture Association of Canada, Chair of the Ecological and Behaviour Section of the Canadian Society of Zoology, and sat on numerous review boards and panels. He played a major role in the establishment and operation of the Aquaculture Research and Development Facility at Memorial (now the Dr. Joe Brown Aquatic Research Building), which was no mean achievement, since it required close and effective liaison between the academic, government and private sectors. Joe will be sadly missed, not only by his family but also by his wide circle of friends, colleagues, students and former students. His work, his friendships and his love of life will be his legacy.

The Dr. Joe Brown Scholarship has been established to honour Joe’s memory. Donations, which are tax-deductible, can be sent to the Dr. Joe Brown Scholarship Fund, Alumni Affairs and Development, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St John’s, NL. A1C 5S7. On line donations can be made at (taken from and following the links to “Alumni Affairs” and “Ways to Donate”). In the information box, state “Dr. Joe Brown Scholarship” and give your name and address to expedite the tax receipt.

By Ray Thompson


The Dr. Joe Brown Graduate Research Award in Aquatic Ecology and Aquaculture, as mentioned above is to commemorate the life and work of Dr. Joe Brown. The award, in support of research activities, is valued at $1,993 for the 2015/2016-scholarship year, and is available to a full-time graduate student in the second or subsequent year of study in the areas of aquatic ecology or aquaculture, and is valued at a portion of the income from the endowment. Given on a basis of scholarly merit and quality of research, the award will be made by the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies upon recommendation from the Head of the Department of Ocean Sciences.

The application should include the following:

1. A current CV

2. A cover letter to address the commitment of the applicant to research activities

3. A letter (or e-mail) of support from the supervisor Applications should be submitted to the Head, Department of Ocean Sciences by December 18, 2015.


Ocean Sciences

230 Elizabeth Ave, St. John's, NL, CANADA, A1B 3X9

Postal Address: P.O. Box 4200, St. John's, NL, CANADA, A1C 5S7

Tel: (709) 864-8000