Nicholas Hughes, Fisheries Biologist, Dies

March 24, 2009 By: Marshall Cutchin

Somehow reading through the accounts of the suicide of Nicholas Hughes, who will likely always be remembered as the son of poets Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, reminded me that human beings have very little control over how they are perceived, especially if they are the offspring of gigantic personalities. So it seems right to refer to Nicholas Hughes as a fisheries biologist — and a gifted one — who spent countless days studying grayling and salmon in Alaska, where he lived. His contributions to the science of ecohydraulics and how “the combination of water flow and the streambed guide the way natural selection influences the behavior of individual salmon, grayling, trout and other species” were considered extraordinary by scientists. “In 2004, he published a paper in which he offered an explanation of why larger fish tend to swim upstream farther from the river bank than smaller fish. This seems counterintuitive, he said, because the current is faster in the middle which would require more energy to overcome. Natural selection would work against that, it seems.” Dermot Cole in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.