Couple’s Gift of Bequest to the MBL Underscores Love, Gratefulness for Woods Hole

Written by Diana Kenney

Linda and Mike Ryan
Linda and Mike Ryan

When Linda Joyce decided to accompany her husband, Mike Ryan, during his postdoctoral stay at the MBL Ecosystems Center, little did she realize it would lead to a big career boost not just for him, but also for her.

Mike was a newly minted PhD then, in 1988, and he was looking forward to his postdoc with MBL Senior Scientist Ed Rastetter (whom he calls “Dr. Ed”). The Ecosystems Center had offered Linda, then an ecologist with the USDA Forest Service, a post as a visiting scientist.

Both Mike and Linda were soon launched into a much higher orbit of exciting research and collaborations.

“At the MBL they are doing ecosystems science at a very high level, a world-class level, and it was really good for me to see how they did things, especially writing successful research proposals,” says Mike, who also now works for the USDA Forest Service at Rocky Mountain Research Station in Fort Collins, Colo., where Linda is a scientist.

“The other thing I will be eternally grateful for is, through Ed Rastetter and [MBL Distinguished Scientist] Jerry Melillo, both Linda and I got involved in some projects that led to a lot of future international collaborations,” Mike says.

In fact, the late 1980s was a heady time to be at the Ecosystems Center. Melillo at that time organized one of the earliest workshops for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and he invited Mike and Linda to attend. The IPCC has since become a world-recognized source for climate-change research, and its work won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

Through her connection with Melillo, Linda became one of the first Forest Service scientists to contribute to the IPCC reports, and it sparked “a lot of other connections, so many more of our scientists got involved with the IPCC. It was a marvelous positive feedback,” Linda says, with benefits on both sides.

Linda also collaborated with Melillo to introduce his ecosystems model into Forest Service assessments of the nation’s natural resources. Prior to this, Forest Service projections did not factor in the impact of climate change on the supply and demand of wood products and timber. After her MBL collaboration, they did.

But it wasn’t just the world-class science and worldly connections that Mike and Linda appreciated about MBL. It was also the charm of Woods Hole. “Woods Hole had a small-town flavor but a great diversity of intellectual stimulation,” Linda says. “It was a really marvelous place to interact, not only with people at the Ecosystems Center and at MBL, but also from the other research institutions in Woods Hole.” The couple also greatly enjoyed village events such as the folk music concerts in Woods Hole Community Hall.

“I have a fond spot in my heart for the MBL,” says Mike. “I was just starting out on my career, and it was a really good place to see how really good people do things. It made my career a lot better and certainly more interesting than it would have been otherwise.”

Do they think about coming back? Linda mentions that a young scientist has been funded to continue some work that she and Jerry Melillo started years ago.

“Maybe you should go back to the Ecosystems Center!” says Mike, laughing. “And bring your hubby!”

Linda and Mike demonstrated their fondness for the Ecosystems Center by including MBL in their estate plans. Their charitable bequest will help sustain MBL as a place where young investigators can continue to be exposed to world-class science and meaningful collaborations.



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