Founding Fellow—Kenneth D. Carlander

Founding Fellow—Kenneth D. Carlander

Founding Fellow—Kenneth D. Carlander

Kenneth Carlander was born in Gary, Indiana, on May 25, 1915. He earned his B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees at the University of Minnesota in 1936, 1938, and 1943, respectively. KENNETH D. CARLANDER was an AIFRB founding fellowFrom 1936 to 1938, while a graduate student, he worked at a laboratory technician for the Works Progress Administration at the University of Minnesota. (The Works Progress Administration (WPA) was a large and ambitious U.S. government agency employing millions of workers, mostly unskilled, to carry out public works projects, including the construction of public buildings and roads. Obviously, he was among the minority of skilled workers employed by the WPA.) From 1938 to 1946 (with an interruption for military service during World War II), he worked as a fishery biologist for the Minnesota State Department of Conservation.

In 1946, Dr. Carlander began a long career as a member of the faculty of Iowa State University. He began as an assistant professor, and was promoted to associate professor, professor, and distinguished professor. Concurrently, he served as leader of the Iowa Cooperative Fishery Research Unit from 1946 to 1965, consultant to the Ford Foundation in Egypt in 1965-1966, visiting professor at Satya Wacana Christian University in Java, Indonesia, in 1977-1978, and visiting professor at Tex-as A&M University in 1884. In 1985, after a long and distinguished career, he retired.

Dr. Carlander died in Ames, Iowa, on November 21, 2002, at the age of 87. Four appreciations by former associates and students, which impart insights as to what a remarkable person Dr. Carlander was, are reproduced here with only minor modifications.

These proceedings of the 1985 International Symposium on Age and Growth of Fish are dedicated to Dr. Kenneth Dixon Carlander, who has devoted much of his professional career since 1938 to documenting and providing a better understanding of growth and aging processes in fishes. His interest and knowledge has been always graciously extended to anyone expressing interest and requesting assistance. His quest for better documentation and more readily accessible information to accommodate or facilitate developing widespread professional interest in this subject area resulted in the publication of his Handbook of Freshwater Biology (Carlander 1953) and complementary volumes (Carlander 1969, 1977). He offered suggestions for standardizing and evaluating age and growth studies, based on his own efforts to process diverse records of biological data on North American freshwater fishes.

A brief history of work on age and growth in fish is revealed in Carlander’s publications and those of his students, and in his paper (Carlander 1986) in “Historical Perspective” in Session I of this symposium. Detailed studies of growth and age structure in populations of major sport fishes in Iowa lakes appeared in publication soon after Carlander’s appointment in 1946 as Assistant Professor of Zoology at Iowa State University and Leader of the Iowa Cooperative Fisheries Research Unit. In the ensuing years, more than 50 scientific papers were published by Carlander and his graduate students, who used age and growth techniques in evaluating the performance of fish populations in Iowa streams, natural lakes, reservoirs, and farm ponds. Carlander evaluated new techniques for aging fish in 10 other papers, and sought to explain fish growth and aging to the general public in 10 popular articles. He also wrote 12 scientific critiques addressed to professional col-leagues.

Long-term studies of fish population in Clear Lake, Iowa, in the 1950s and 1960s revealed the problems posed by missing scale annuli. Other studies showed that scale analyses did not adequately demonstrate the suspected impacts of flooding on fish populations in Iowa streams. Carlander attempted, through his graduate students’ studies, to evaluate index marks on fish scales, and to use RNA-DNA ratio techniques on wild fish subjected to various environmental stressors.

Carlander’s professional career, which has already spanned 47 years, has enriched the fisheries field far beyond his personal research contributions. Since he began teaching at Iowa State University in 1946, he has directed programs of 34 Ph.D. graduates and 59 M.S. students (of whom 22 also completed Ph.D. programs—12 at Iowa State). In addition, he offered enthusiastic encouragement and opportunities for personal involvement in aquatic studies to developing undergraduate and graduate students pursuing studies in other fields, thereby expanding understanding and appreciation of the aquatic sciences.

Carlander has provided many opportunities for foreign students to study at Iowa State University to enable them to assume prominent professional roles in their own countries. While serving as a visiting professor in Egypt (1965-1966) and Indonesia (1977-1978), he substantially increased his personal knowledge of the environmental and social problems that confront foreign fisheries students. His expanded views not only enriched his teaching and advisory roles, but also improved and influenced educational opportunities of students in the United States. Professionals trained by him fill many major positions in foreign countries, and in universities, private businesses, and state and federal governments in the United States.

Kenneth D. Carlander's accomplishments in fisheries research and education, in addition to his contributions to Iowa, have been recognized in many ways: selection to four scholastic honor societies; selection as a Fellow by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Institute of Fishery Research Biologists, the Iowa Academy of Science, and the International Academy of Fishery Scientists; appointment in 1974 by Iowa State University as Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished Professor; appointment by Iowa governors to various councils and boards; and invitations to lecture at more than 30 universities and scientific laboratories. Carlander has been a member of more than 30 professional societies, serving on committees and boards of 11 and being elected President of the American Fisheries Society (1960-1961), of Sigmi Xi, Iowa Chapter (1963-1964), and of the Iowa Academy of Science (1968-1969). He was presented the Award of Excellence by the American Fisheries Society in 1979 and the Distinguished Fellow Award by the Iowa Academy of Science in 1980.

Probably his greatest reward has been the continued professional recognition by, and active involvement in the growth of the more than a century old fisheries profession in the United States. His colleagues—especially those who studied under and worked with him—take pleasure in this special opportunity to further recognize his many valued contributions.

Carlander, Kenneth D. 1953. Handbook of freshwater fishery biology, with the first supplement. Wm. C. Brown Company, Dubuque, Iowa, USA.
Carlander, Kenneth D. 1969. Handbook of freshwater fishery biology, Volume 1. Iowa State University Press, Ames, Iowa, USA.
Carlander, Kenneth D. 1977. Handbook of freshwater fishery biology, Volume 2. Iowa State University Press, Ames, Iowa, USA.
Carlander, Kenneth D. 1987. A history of scale age and growth studies of North American fresh-water fishes. In Summerfelt, Robert C., and Gordon E. Hall (editors), Age and Growth of Fish, Iowa State University Press, Ames, Iowa, USA: 3-14.


Ken Carlander and Iowa State University were synonymous. After completing military service (ever-productive, Ken even produced, while he was in the service, a scientific paper on birds observed during maneuvers) and graduate research at the University of Minnesota on the fisheries of the Lake of the Woods, Ken became Assistant Professor of Zoology at Iowa State University and Leader of the Iowa Cooperative Fishery Unit. (Iowa State is home to the cooperative unit concept, a brainchild of Iowa’s conservation pioneer, Ding Darling.) Ken remained at Iowa State throughout his active and emeritus career. By 1985, the date of his nominal retirement, he had directed pro-grams of 34 Ph.D. graduates and 59 M.S. students (of whom 22 also completed Ph.D. programs—12 at Iowa State).

Ken had a vital interest in encouraging fisheries research in developing countries. To that end, Ken mentored numerous foreign students from, among many countries, Sudan, Liberia, Iraq, and India, and also served as a visiting professor in Egypt and Indonesia.

None of the above, however prestigious, can convey the deep affection in which Ken was held by his students. Always calm, always understanding, always tolerant, Ken made each of us feel accepted and capable of the work expected of us. His generosity was unequaled. At least one graduate student found long after completion of his degree that a supposed assistantship from the university that had supported him and his family during tight times had actually come straight from the pocket of Ken Carlander.

And I probably ought to nominate Ken for sainthood. Finishing a hot summer Friday of electro fishing, David Belmler and I were driving the 30 miles from the Des Moines River back to Ames when a 5-gallon container of strong formaldehyde solution overturned in the back of the station wagon assigned to the fisheries unit. The vile fluid filled the recessed wheel well in the aft floor of the vehicle. Completely saturated with fish, fish biology, heat, and the week’s work, Dave and I were absolutely convinced that the formaldehyde would be overjoyed to spend the weekend in the wheel well so that its removal could provide us with a fitting beginning to the next Monday. We did not know that Ken and Jess Muncy were planning a very early departure in that same despoiled vehicle on Monday morning for the 150-mile round trip to Fort Dodge. Nor did Ken and Jess know in the cool of their predawn departure that the morning’s heat would vaporize the unsuspected, and then hidden, fish preservative and force them to ride the entire distance with their heads out the windows. Ken never mentioned the incident to Dave or me.


My copy of the Briefs arrived in the mail today, and as I walked down our lane from the mailbox I was idly flipping through the pages when the notice of Ken Carlander’s passing struck me between the eyes and, I might add, deep in my heart. For you (Huntsman) were right when you said Dr. Carlander was deeply loved by his students.

I was privileged to have Ken Carlander as my major professor for both my Master’s and Ph.D. degrees, spending a full five years under his quiet, insightful tutelage. When towns along the Mississippi River sought to control the enormous hatches of caddis flies and mayflies that practically halted river traffic for a period of time each year, Ken noted that poisoning the river could wreak havoc on the riverine ecosystem, and he convinced the local governments to support a study to determine the role played by these insects and to investigate possible alternative means of control. My office mate, Cal Fremling, a Ph.D. candidate, was elected to study the life history of several species in the hope of determining such alternatives. For my Master’s thesis, Dr. Carlander suggested that I identify the role played by the immature forms in the aquatic food chain. The results of our studies unequivocally demonstrated the vital role that these insects played as food for a wide range of commercial and sport fish species. Cal was drawn to the fact that the mature adults were attracted to blue fluorescent lights, and he devised a series of light traps that were located along the river bluff at Keokuk, Iowa. These traps were quite successful in diverting mature insects, especially caddis flies, from impacting human health and activities. As a result of our work, the towns dismissed their plan to poison the river and adopted the much more benign approach of luring the adult insects away from points of conflict with riverside residents. Under Dr. Carlander’s guidance, Cal and I were able to acquire a foundation of basic knowledge and apply that knowledge toward solving a practical problem in an environmentally-positive application.

I recount our experience because it illustrates a side of Ken Carlander not normally evident. Despite all the trappings of academe, the scientific treatises, the professional acclaim and honors, Ken never forgot that guiding his students toward careers as professional biologists required preparing them for the practical, as well as the theoretical, side of life. At 70, I am still involved in the fisheries field as a Lead Entity Coordinator in a statewide salmon recovery program here in Washington. I will always be grateful to Ken Carlander for showing me the way to a re-warding and satisfying career in fisheries science.

KENNETH D. CARLANDER by Robert Summerfelt
Kenneth D. Carlander earned three degrees in zoology from the University of Minnesota. His dissertation research, carried out under the supervision of Samuel Eddy, was concerned the commercial walleye fishery in Lake of the Woods, Minnesota. During World War II, he served as a medical staff member with the U.S. Army in India. After his military service, he accepted a faculty position at the Iowa State College (renamed Iowa State University in 1959), where he remained until his retirement in 1985. His retirement was celebrated by his colleagues with an “International Symposium on Age and Growth of Fish,” in Des Moines, Iowa. The proceedings of the symposium were published under the title Age and Growth of Fish (Summerfelt and Hall, 1987). His first research publication, in 1939, dealt with walleye growth rate in Minnesota lakes. This was to be the first of his many contributions to documenting, standardizing, and evaluating the application of fish age and growth studies to fisheries management. He processed data from innumerable published and unpublished reports on growth and aging processes in fishes in his Hand-book of Freshwater Biology, first in 1953, with complementary volumes in 1969, 1977, and 1997. The handbooks remain among the most cited references in fisheries science. Additionally, he was among the first to carry on truly long-term freshwater fishery population and community research through the numerous M.S. theses and Ph.D. dissertations of his students. In his professorial career at Iowa State University, which spanned nearly 40 years, he guided the graduate programs of 34 Ph.D. and 60 M.S. students, of whom 31 also completed Ph.D. pro-grams, 12 at Iowa State University. He was the exemplar of a quiet, gentle, and caring major professor. For many years, he sent a Christmas letter to former students with updates of the professional achievements and personal successes of his students. He was active in providing opportunities for international students to study fisheries in the United States. He had professional and personal interests (member of the United Nations Association) in international development. He was a visiting professor in Egypt (1965-1966) and Indonesia (1977-1978). He was a mentor for professionals who comprise a “who's who” in many American and foreign universities, and state and federal natural resource agencies. Carlander was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Institute of Fishery Research Biologists, the Iowa Academy of Science, and the International Academy of Fishery Scientists. He was a member of the American Fisheries Society (AFS) for more than 50 years. He received the AFS Award of Excellence in 1979, and the North Central Division award for Excellence in Fisheries Science in 1989. He was vice president and president of the AFS from 1958 to 1961, and served the Society in many ways. He was also a member of more than 30 other professional societies. He enjoyed gardening and birding, and before graduate school, he published nearly 100 articles on bird life, including 74 articles on birds of the Palo Duro for the Amarillo News.

Anonymous. 2009. Herbert W. Graham [obituary]. AIFRB Briefs, 38 (1): 5-6.
Skud, Bernard. 2007. Herbert W. Graham: happy 102nd birthday!! AIFRB Briefs, 36 (5): 6-7.
Personal communications: Teri Frade, Karen Heise-Gentile, Suzan Oliver, Bernard E. Skud.

To read about all the Founding Fellows, click on this PDF. 

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  1. Pingback: Fishing for Science: Aquatic and Fisheries Science at Iowa State University | Iowa State University Library Special Collections Department Blog

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