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Akira Okubo Fund

The Akira Okubo Fund was created in 1996 in memory of Professor Akira Okubo. The Funds okubopurposes are to support students and to encourage the exchange of ideas through support of visiting scholars. Over the years, the fund’s endowment has grown to approximately $16,000. Since its creation the fund has provided fellowship support to several SoMAS graduate students. In 2003, the Okubo Fund was used to renew the Distinguished Visiting Scholar Program, with the intention of inviting one Okubo Scholar per academic year. Professor Simon Levin of Princeton University was the first Okubo Distinguished Scholar. Professor Thomas (Zack) Powell of University of California-Berkeley visited SoMAS in spring, 2005. Plans for the Fund include the creation of a “Rainy Day” fund for graduate students, which would be used to provide transitional support to students who are near completion of their thesis but have lost their funding. Rainy day support also could be used to help students in unforeseen circumstances such as a family emergency.


Akira Okubo, Professor of Mathematical Ecology at the Marine Sciences Research Center, State University of New York at Stony Brook, died on 1 February 1996, a few days before his 71st birthday after a long, courageous battle with cancer.

Portrait of Akira Okubo by Deborah Bray

Akira Okubo came to the United States as a young man in 1959, following a career as Chief of the Chemical Oceanography section of the Japanese Meteorological Agency in Tokyo. He completed his Ph.D. in 1963 under the tutelage of Donald W. Pritchard at the Chesapeake Bay Institute of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. He continued working at CBI until 1975, when he was appointed Professor of Mathematical Ecology at the Marine Sciences Research Center, State University of New York, Stony Brook.

He quickly established himself as a distinguished faculty member, not only in physical oceanography, but also in many other disciplines that incorporated his wide interests in oceanic diffusion, animal and insect swarming, and studies at the physical-biological interface.

Trained as a chemist and chemical oceanographer, Akira became the complete theoretician – an applied mathematician with a keen sense of physics, biology, and a rare insight into where the significant problems lay.

Actively sought out by leading marine scientists worldwide over the years, Akira could identify almost 100 collaborators. As sole author and with his colleagues, he published well over 150 papers. His own remarkable contributions earned him numerous hon-ors, including the prestigious Medal of the Oceanographical Society of Japan, and a Senior Visiting Scholarship at the University of Oxford. His studies ranged from dye diffusion in the ocean, circulation in oceanic fronts, Lagrangian dispersion, and midge swarming behavior from its chemistry to ethology. He applied his insights into turbulent mixing to subjects as disparate as seed dispersion, animal grouping behavior, and spider webs.

His text Diffusion and Ecological Problems: Modern Perspectives (Springer-Verlag, 2002) is a modern classic. Akira’s greatest attributes were his warm humanity, generosity and love for science. Few scientists have touched as many other’s lives and hearts. Through his own enthusiasm, his generosity with his time and ideas, and his unselfish way of allowing others to take credit for ideas that were originally his, he multiplied his influence amongst his colleagues and students many times over.

On 21-22 July 1995, the Okubo Symposium (videos available Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) was held in his honor at the Marine Sciences Research Center of the State University of New York, Stony Brook. The invited speakers included Simon Levin (Princeton University), Thomas Powell (University of California at Berkeley), John Steele (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution), Mimi Koehl (University of California at Berkeley), Trevor Platt (Bedford Institute of Oceanography), and Curtis Ebbesmeyer (Evans-Hamilton, Inc.). Each speaker presented seminars on topics where Akira had made substantial contributions, as well as paying him a personal tribute. Akira was profoundly grateful for the symposium and actively participated in it. By all accounts, the symposium was a great success.

Everyone who came into contact with Akira found their life immeasurably enriched; he became their sensei. We present this website as a lasting tribute to a humble, gentle man called Akira Okubo who touched our lives in profound ways. We honor the essence of Akira’s personality and his approach to science, his love of the inner structure and innate beauty of the physical, biological, and ecological processes which define the natural world, and his keen eye for the exquisite.

Oceanography Vol. 12 No. 1 (1999) features a tribute to Akira Okubo.

Ways to Give

Gifts may be made by check, money order or credit card. Checks and money orders should be made payable to the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences/SBF. The Center also accepts MasterCard, Visa, American Express, or Discover. To donate on-line please click here. When you are donating to the Okubo Fund please specify on the donation form by referencing this account number #283110.


Robert and Josephine Aller, James K. Cochran, David Conover, Margaret Conover, Hans Dam, Catherine Drew, Josh Dubnau, Roger Flood, Carol Gandarillas, Fernando Gandarillas, Nickitas Georgas, Regan Georgas, Eileen Goldsmith, Sultan Hameed, Safia Hameed, David Hirschberg, Yorkette Kleinman, Maira Kretzmann, Cindy Lee, Nicole Maher, Bernice Malione, Jack Mattice, Anne McElroy, Kim McKown, John Reinfelder, Ying Fan Reinfelder, Hudson Roditi, Teresa Rotunno, Sergio Sanudo-Wilhelmy, Mary Scranton, Bonnie Stephens, Peter Stephens, Joseph Tanski, Mark Tedesco, William Wallace, Jennifer Wallace, Dong Ping Wang, Sheue Jiau Wang, Mark Wiggins, William Wise, Minghua Zhang, Ying Zhang