Howard L. Sanders

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

March 17, 1921 - February 8, 2001


Election Year: 1983
Scientific Discipline: Evolutionary Biology
Membership Type: Member

Howard L. Sanders pioneered oceanic benthic ecology, biogeography, and zoology.  He became a prominent figure in deep-sea biology when he discovered a new subspecies of primitive crustaceans, amending the view of crustacean evolution.  He was among the first to research species diversity patterns in estuaries, the results of which established our understanding of the role of latitudinal and depth gradients in diversity.  Sanders and his colleagues investigated the abyssal basins of the Atlantic Ocean, and used new sampling techniques they devised to record some of the first measurements of sea-bottom productivity.  This led to the discovery of hundreds of new deep-sea species, demonstrating that ocean life was vastly underexplored and undocumented.  Sanders was best known for his 1969 oil spill study at Buzzards Bay off West Falmouth, which provided a model for the assessment of long-term biological and environmental consequences of oil spills that is still used today.

Sanders received his B.A. degree from the University of British Columbia in 1949, his M.S. degree from Rhode Island University in 1951, and his Ph.D. from Yale University in 1955.  The next year, he began working as a research associate of marine biology at the Marine Biological Lab of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.  He remained at Woods Hole his entire career, becoming an associate scientist in 1958, a senior scientist in 1966, and a senior scientist emeritus in 1986.  Sanders was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Society of Naturalists, and the American Society for Limnology and Oceanography.  He was a member of numerous organizations, including the NAS Committee on Oceanography’s Biological Methods Panel, the Woods Hole’s Corporation of the Marine Biological Lab, and the Smithsonian Oceanographic Sorting Center’s Committee on Arthropods.

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