The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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David Noakes Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Chris Petersen.

June 4, 2015


“Repaying a Debt to the Fish”  June 4, 2015  Location: Oregon Hatchery Research Center, Alsea, Oregon.  Watch Video | Download Transcript (PDF)

In the interview, Noakes provides a detailed overview of his upbringing in Ontario, Canada, remarking in particular on the social and cultural norms that informed his youth, and commenting on his educational experiences from primary school through his graduate studies at the University of Western Ontario. From there he discusses his doctoral studies at the University of California, Berkeley, noting the significant cultural changes that he encountered as a Canadian living in Berkeley during the late 1960s, and likewise reflecting on his research and mentors during that time.

Noakes then recounts his first academic appointment as a junior faculty member at the University of Edinburgh. In this, he focuses on the societal differences that he observed while in Scotland and describes the research that he conducted during this time.

A major topic of the session is the three decades that Noakes spent as a faculty member at the University of Guelph. He recalls the circumstances by which he relocated to Ontario, speaks of a sabbatical that he took at the University of Oxford, and then details several research projects that he led at Guelph. Specifically, he recounts his work with local, cold-water fish populations; discusses his study of the ecological impact of a nuclear plant in southern Ontario; comments on his collaborations with Canadian First Nations communities; traces his decades-long relationship with scholars based in Iceland; and notes his work on killfish, the only fish species known to reproduce by self-fertilization.

The interview then changes its focus to Noakes' association with Oregon State University. He shares his memories of the decision to leave Canada in favor of Oregon, his initial impressions of the university, the pre-history of the Oregon Hatchery Research Center (OHRC), and the crafting of a mission for the center. He then describes the duties of the board that oversees the OHRC, comments on the center's international reputation, lends his thoughts on specific features of the center that make it both adaptable and effective, and reflects on the sense of community shared by those who live and work at the center.

The session concludes with a discussion of OHRC's engagement with tribal communities in Oregon, and Noakes' expression of hope that the OHRC will continue to pursue its stated mission in the years to come.