The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Charlie Miller Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Mike Dicianna.

May 12, 2015


“Studying Small Creatures and Large Issues”  May 12, 2015  Location: Burt Hall, Oregon State University.  Watch Video | Download Transcript (PDF)

In the interview, Miller discusses his upbringing in Minnesota, his undergraduate years at Carleton College, his decision to pursue graduate study in ocean ecology, and the narrowing of his focus on zooplankton while at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

After noting a post-doctoral trip that he took to New Zealand, Miller turns his attention to his years at the Marine Science Center at Oregon State University, which is the primary focus of the interview. He describes the circumstances by which he arrived at Oregon State, the techniques used by oceanographers during the time, his uneven first experiences teaching undergraduates, and some early ocean cruises that he took on the center's research vessels. In recounting these ocean cruises, Miller makes specific mention of research on phytoplankton and copepods that resulted in the discovery of a new species of plankton, Neocalanus flemingeri.

From there, Miller touches upon issues collaboration and collegiality within the profession. He then details his memories of the earliest conversations on global warming in which he was involved. He likewise shares his thoughts on the ways in which students have changed over time, a rejected proposal that OSU's School of Oceanography relocate to Newport, and changing contours in the relationship shared between Hatfield Marine Science Center and the Corvallis campus. Returning to an overview of his scholarly career, Miller recalls his collaboration with Japanese scientists on the reproductive mechanics of copepodites.

The final segment of the interview is principally devoted to Miller's environmental activism and other activities in retirement. He discusses his opposition to a liquefied natural gas terminal that has been proposed to cross Oregon and shares his perspective on the peril presented by climate change. The session concludes with notes on family, a description of Miller's business editing scientific manuscripts, and an appeal that members of the academy become more involved in social and environmental policy debates.