Igor A. Melnikov

In memory of Dr. Igor A. Melnikov

Dr. Igor A Melnikov: 13/11/39-17/09/23

It is with sadness that CAFF recently learned of the passing of Dr. Igor A. Melnikov, a long-term contributor to CAFF and long-standing fixture in polar science.

For over 40 years Dr. Melnikov worked at the P.P. Shirshov Institute for Oceanology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, where he organized and participated in 25 expeditions to the polar regions, including on drifting stations in the Central Arctic Ocean.

Dr. Melnikov’s adventurous spirit and ice-breaking science shone light on the essential building blocks of life in some of the world’s hardest to reach places. His work advanced the scientific understanding of life associated with sea ice, and how the loss of that habitat resonates across the marine ecosystem. His work is essential reading for anyone studying microscopic creatures that live in, on and around polar sea ice and who wants to understand the implications of sea ice loss in the Arctic Ocean. The cover photo of his widely read book Arctic Sea Ice Ecosystem (1997), where he is diving among meter-long curtains of the under-ice alga Melosira arctica, has probably been shown to every student learning about sea ice habitats and ice algae.

Contained in the ice core samples that he and colleagues collected were species that were then unknown to science. His name is given to Theristus melnikovi, a species of free-living Arctic sea ice nematode (round worm) found in samples from his 1980-81 field season on drifting station “North Pole-22”; one of his many ventures to the region.

Results from his research and monitoring activities in the Central Arctic Ocean and beyond greatly enriched the reporting of the Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program (CBMP), including its State of the Arctic Marine Biodiversity Report (2017). As a vital member of CAFF’s CBMP Sea Ice Biota Expert Network, Dr. Melnikov joined circumpolar colleagues to collect, analyze and report on the species composition, structure and function of sea ice biota across the Arctic, and to understand how this foundational component of Arctic life was changing in a warmer climate. His unique character, story-telling willingness, and decades of Arctic field work made him a unique memory of long-lost times when sea ice was thick and abundant.

His distinctions, awards and commendations are numerous, and specified on his website. He was a member of the International Informatization Academy of the UN (1996), the Committee for the Study of the Arctic and Antarctic under the Presidium of the Russian Academy of Sciences (1996), representative of the Russian Committee for Antarctic Research in SCAR (1996), co-chairman of the Russian-American program RAISE (1998–2005), member of SCOR Working Group #86 “Sea Ice Ecology” (1988–2000), fellow of the American Geophysical Society (AGU) (1992) and fellow of the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO) (1992). He was awarded Honorary Polar Explorer by the USSR (1978), Order of the Red Banner of Labor (1991), Grand Prix for scientific research in the Arctic and Antarctic using scuba gear from UNESCO/IOC/CMAS (1995), the “300 years of the Russian Navy” jubilee medal (1998), Outstanding Scientist of Russia scholarship of the President of the Russian Federation (1996-1999), and World Confederation of Underwater Activities (CMAS) medal for Contribution to Underwater activities (2009).

Whether he was on, in or under the ice, or in the many meeting rooms where CAFF benefitted from his presence, Dr. Melnikov had an unforgettable enthusiasm and spirit. Our thoughts are with his family and long-time collaborators.

By Courtney Price and Bodil Bluhm