Saul B. Saila, 94, died on December 10th in Vallejo, California. Saila was professor emeritus of oceanography at the University of Rhode Island (URI) after 35 years as a faculty member. As one of the early faculty members at URI’s Graduate School of Oceanography (GSO), he had a profound impact on the development of the institution and the many students that he influenced during his tenure.
Saila served in the U.S. Army, 100th Infantry, Intelligence and Reconnaissance Platoon, from 1942 to 1946. He was wounded in the Allied invasion of Italy and was a prisoner of war in Germany. Following the war, he returned to the United States to continue his education. Saila received a B.S. in agronomy in 1949 from URI and a M.S. (1950) in limnology and Ph.D. (1952) in fishery biology from Cornell University. Saila worked as a fisheries biologist for the Rhode Island Division of Fish and Game before his appointment as assistant professor of marine biology at URI in 1956, followed by promotion to associate professor of marine biology in 1961 and full professor of oceanography and zoology in 1967. He was one of the first to recognize the importance of computers at URI and, as director of the URI Computer Laboratory, he brought the first mainframe computer to URI and pioneered the use of computation in marine biology. As a URI faculty member, he developed the course “Fish Population Dynamics,” which is still taught today. Revered and respected as an oceanography professor, he was a major professor of over 75 graduate students and served on over 50 other graduate student committees. Starting in 1951, Saila authored or coauthored over 88 scientific publications. He established the Marine Experiment Station at URI, modeled on the agricultural experiment stations of land grant colleges. Saila made important contributions to a broad range of research topics including multispecies and ecosystem modeling, complex nonlinear dynamics, and uncertainty theory.
During sabbatical leaves, he was a visiting professor at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries in New Zealand, and the University of Tokyo. He considered his most rewarding accomplishments lecturing and consulting in numerous countries and training international students at URI. Countries that he visited as part of his collaborative research included Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Azores, and many others. Saila was a member of the American Fisheries Society, the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography, and the Rhode Island Marine Fisheries Council, among other organizations.
Saila was the recipient of the prestigious Award of Excellence by the American Fisheries Society in 2001, which is the oldest major AFS award and the most prestigious presented to an individual. He also received the AFS Excellence in Fisheries Education Award in 1989, and in 1994 he received the Oscar E. Sette Award for outstanding marine fisheries biologist from the Marine Fisheries Section of AFS.
Professor Saila retired from GSO in 1988. After retirement, he remained active in scientific research and especially as a member of the Wood Pawcatuck Watershed Association.
A memorial service has not been planned as of yet. We send our condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.
— Bruce H. Corliss, Graduate School of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island