Remembering Dr. Kenneth H. Coale (1955-2022)

“It is encumbent upon us, as scientists and educators, to provision the pioneers of the future."
—Dr. Kenneth Coale

Dr. Kenneth H. Coale was a pioneer and leader in ocean science whose legacy will live on for decades. Born in New York City in 1955, Kenneth grew up in California and attended UC Santa Cruz for his undergraduate education. He studied biology and upon graduating was hired as a technician in an oceanography lab at UC Santa Cruz. Thus began his illustrious career in ocean chemistry and the trace metals that make organic life possible. Kenneth earned his PhD from UC Santa Cruz in 1988 and was then a post-doctoral fellow at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories (MLML). He would go on to lead MLML from 1998-2011 and, during that time, he oversaw the construction of the current MLML facility following the complete destruction of the original lab during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Kenneth is best known for his work on the importance of iron as a “fertilizer” for the world’s oceans and leading historic large-scale, open-ocean iron-fertilization experiments. Later in his career, he focused on the cycling and impacts of other trace metals, particularly mercury. He retired from MLML in 2018, having mentored hundreds of students and fellow scientists and leaving a legacy of curiosity, grand vision, and care for others. 

Kenneth was instrumental in the founding and development of the CSU Council on Ocean Affairs, Science & Technology (COAST). He had a vision for marine science in the CSU and for California as a global leader in ocean science and policy. Along with a handful of others, Kenneth’s passion and dedication to marine science in the CSU brought COAST into existence in 2008. With his unwavering support and guidance, COAST grew from an idea into a well-established CSU-wide program that provides millions of dollars in funding to CSU faculty members and students to advance our knowledge of ocean and coastal systems. 

​Kenneth passed away on July 11 at the age of 67 from a sudden cardiac event. He will be deeply missed by his family, MLML, the COAST community and scientists across the world. Beginning in 2022, COAST renamed our graduate student award program to honor Kenneth and all that he has done.