Ruth Patrick, pioneer in ecological indicators

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 (source: Academy of Natural Sciences)

Dr. Ruth Partick, an american pioneer in limnology, died last September 23 at the age of 105. She contributed to the development of the theory and methodology to investigate the relationship between freshwater biodiversity and river ecosystem health, setting the basis of freshwater science and management and the use of ecological indicators already in the 1940s.

She graduated in 1929 in South Carolina and then finished her master’s degree and PhD  studying diatoms at the University of Virginia in 1931 and 1934, respectively. Afterwards, she continued her research at the Academy of Natural Sciences, where she voluntereed and was never paid for her work until 1945.  Women were not supposed to be on science but she did. Just two years later, she founded the Limnology Department at the Academy of Natural Sciences, which she led until 1973.

In her early research, she conducted  diatom-based paleolimnological studies and showed, for instance, that the Great Salt Lake was not always a saline lake. This and other findings lead to further dedication to investigate the relationship between diatom community composition of streams and environmental conditions, and also to consider aquatic invertebrates and fish for the same purpose. Moroever, she was a pioneer also in transmitting research findings into society and policy, and contributing to write the  1972 US Clean Water Act.

Ruth Patrick was a professor at the University of Pennsylvania for 35 years, wrote over 200 scientific papers and many books and received more than 30 honors and awards.



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