Two events during my childhood influenced me to become a life-long aquarist. The first was seeing a small aquarium in my dentist’s office – it was so cool! I was fascinated to the point that I was probably the only 5-year old that enjoyed going to the dentist. The second event had a much more profound effect – it was the sight of a small tide pool on the rocky coast of Maine. It held colorful anemones, crabs, seaweed and small fishes. My 15-gallon freshwater tank was quickly replaced by 20-gallon saltwater aquarium (in 1964) and I would keep saltwater fishes until my interest turned to African cichlids in the mid-1980’s. My interest in aquaria faded until I happened to see George Smit’s articles in Freshwater and Marine Aquarium (FAMA) magazine concerning European ‘mini-reef’ aquariums. It would be a major turning point in my life, and I began to assemble a 110-gallon reef aquarium.
The philosophy at the time was that technology was the answer, and I purchased just about every device known that claimed to be necessary for coral husbandry. And I met with only mediocre results – something was missing. After much deliberation, I purchased a Li-Cor quantum meter for the tune of about $1,500 and began investigating the effects of light intensity on captive corals. And so it began. My first article was published in Aquarium System’s SeaScope in the late 1980’s (it described a refugium I built for my aquarium.) Articles penned for Marine Fish Monthly, FAMA, Aquarium Frontiers, and many others followed. My book The Captive Reef was published in 1995. Invitations to speak to local, regional, and national conferences began. It was a great honor to be awarded MASNA’s “Aquarist of the Year” in 2011.
I moved to the Big Island of Hawaii in 1999 and had the great pleasure of studying natural reefs. More research – and articles – followed.
After 18 years in Hawaii, I returned to my home Sate of Georgia, and now have access to corals I only dreamed about while in Hawaii. My PAM fluorometer, chlorophyll meter, spectrometers, colorimeters, and other lab equipment will certainly get a workout!