Serving The Communities Of Portal and Rodeo (

Portal, AZ - Rodeo, NM

Serving The Communities Of Portal and Rodeo  (

Bob Hessler

Published by the Scripps Institute Of Oceanography

Dear Scripps Community,

I am sad to have to report the passing of Bob Hessler, who died Oct. 17 at a hospice care facility in Douglas, Arizona. He was 87.

Over a career of more than 40 years, Bob studied ocean communities at depths of 5,000 to 6,000 meters in the centers of the major ocean basins, concentrating on the central North Pacific. After life was discovered at hydrothermal vents in 1977, he was among biologists who traveled to the Galapagos Rift in 1979 to identify creatures that can thrive despite the caustic environment around the vents.

Bob was born in Chicago, Ill., on Nov. 22, 1932. He studied forestry at Colorado A&M College, Fort Collins, in 1950, and then attended the University of Chicago from 1951 to 1960, where he received an AB in liberal arts in 1953, an MS in zoology in 1955, and a PhD in invertebrate paleontology in 1960. He was a research associate, assistant scientist, and associate scientist from 1960 to 1968 at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. In January 1969, he became an associate professor in the Biological Oceanography Curricular Group and Marine Biology Research Division at Scripps. He was promoted to full professor of biological oceanography in 1974. He served as chairman of the Marine Biology Research Division from 1978 to 1983. He retired in 2001.

The author or coauthor of more than 130 papers on marine animals, Hessler’s research specialties included the study of marine arthropods (invertebrate animals with articulate bodies and limbs, such as insects, arachnids, and crustaceans) and the ecology of deep-sea bottom communities. He contributed to knowledge of the systematics, evolution, and functional morphology of arthropods and a greater understanding of the ecology and distribution of deep-water animals.

Besides his work at the Galapagos Rift, Hessler also explored life at other deep-ocean spreading centers including locations off Baja California, one in the Guaymas Basin in the Gulf of California and the other at the East Pacific Rise. These spreading centers, each of which is at the intersection of tectonic plates, are active volcanic sites where new seafloor is being produced.

Hessler’s studies of the ecology of deep-sea communities also included Scripps’s Eurydice Expedition to the Philippine Trench in 1975, when Hessler’s group successfully photographed life at a depth of 9,600 meters (about six miles) with Scripps-developed free-vehicle cameras and took bottom samples with a box corer to obtain quantitative measurements of deep-sea life.

Hessler was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the San Diego Society of Natural History, and a member of a number of scientific organizations, including the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography, the Western Society of Naturalists, and the Danish Natural History Society. He was an elected member of the Royal Physiographical Society of Lund, Sweden, where he had also done research while on sabbatical at the University of Lund.

Hessler is survived by wife Cecilia. His family plans no memorial service.  At his request, his ashes will be co-mingled with those of his only child, son David, who was killed in 1995 at the age of 30. Those wishing to make gifts in Hessler’s memory are encouraged to make them to Hope Hospice and Health Care.

© Howard Topoff 2011