Dr. Daphne Fautin, world’s foremost sea anemone expert, identifying live specimens with a group of students on her last visit to the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research in New Zealand, 2007. Credit: Kareen Schnabel

Dr. Daphne G. Fautin, an invertebrate zoologist who pioneered research into sea anemones and their symbiotic associations with anemonefishes, died March 12, 2021 in Medford, Oregon. She was 74 years old and is survived by her husband, oceanographer Dr. Robert Buddemeier.

“I have just been informed that Prof. Dr. Daphne Fautin has passed away! wrote Sérgio N. Stampar Associate Professor at Brazil’s São Paulo State University in a social media post that is reverberating around the world of marine biologists. “Probably, the biggest taxonomy name in Anthozoa in the world,” said Stampar. “She helped me several times in my beginning in Anthozoa. She left an incredible legacy with the training of several important researchers.”

Professor Emerita at the University of Kansas, where she taught for 23 years, Dr. Fautin described herself in these words:

“An invertebrate zoologist, I do research centered on sea anemones. Because one of my major interests is symbiosis, I have worked also on a variety of organisms that live with sea anemones, including fishes, crustaceans, and algae. A recurring theme of this research is choice among species of potential symbiotic partners. Many of the symbioses I have studied—such as those of anemonefishes and anemoneshrimps—are associated with coral reefs, one of my environmental foci. My doctoral research was on sea anemone reproduction. That interest continues, with some of my current research being on reproductive periodicity of an abyssal species. I am also interested in general natural history, particularly with regard to habitat specificity. My post-doctoral research was in pharmacognosy—I extracted biologically active compounds from sea anemones for possible development as new pharmaceuticals.”

The author of numerous scientific papers, Dr. Fautin also teamed up with reef fish ichthyologist Dr. Gerald R. Allen to publish Anemone Fishes and Their Host Sea Anemones in 1994. It is long out of print, but is still a trusted reference found in the libraries of thousands of marine aquarium enthusiasts.

Daphne Fautin had a Ph.D. in zoology from UC Berkeley. She became a marine biologist at the University of Oregon Institute of Marine Biology. She was Curator and Director of Research at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, then Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Kansas. 

A formal obituary has yet to be published and no cause of death has been announced, but her passing was confirmed by Rogue Valley Funeral Associates, who have posted a memorial page here: Daphne Gail Fautin

Dr. Daphne Fautin with husband Dr. Robert Buddemeier, at a 2018 presentation they gave to the Rogue Valley (Oregon) Audubon Society. They were both professors at Kansas State University before retirement, and they had copublished papers on climate change and its impact on coral reefs.

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