How to process something like Rafe Sagarin’s senseless passing? For those who never encountered him, Rafe was a wonderful marine ecologist whose body of work was as varied and eclectic as can be, from classic papers on long-term effects of climate change in Science and Ecological Monograph to books on how the natural world can help us deal with risk, like terrorist attacks, to working at Biosphere2. He’s even got a wonderful youtube channel that works, as he always did, outside of the box.
Rafe was one of those vivacious dynamic iconoclastic people that you are always delighted to encounter in life. I was fortunate to know him through the Western Society of Naturalists where his charm and vim earned him the annual slot of auctioneer to raise funds for students. I really only knew him as colleague at meetings, and yet he is someone who has served as an example for myself and so many other early career scientists.
It was his passion. Every talk I heard him give, every conversation we ever had – scientific, personal, or with others about the difficulties of being early career – every interaction I saw him have with anyone around him, all of it was infused with an infection passion. His passion for the natural world was infectious. It infused everything. It was in his voice. It was in his worldview. It was in how he shaped his talks and storytelling. It was in his damned silly shirt he wore at every WSN.
Rafe’s uncompromising passion for science and nature was an inspiration. I looked forward to seeing what he thought of next because there is no joy in the world like watching someone follow their passion. And now I will not be able to again.
But that passion. That is what I will always hold onto. Because the life scientific can get you down as it grinds forward. But holding onto our passion, our vim, our vigor, our joie de vivre, rooted in our love of the natural world – that is what can provide an endless wellspring of joy in every moment. It’s something that has helped me forge onwards in my own career and in my life in general.
Rafe will always serve as an example of that passion and the myriad of directions it can lead. I will hold onto that. I hope that his passion will long serve as an example for our whole community. It will for me.