Sad News: Death of Dr. Roland Anderson


Aug 17, 2005
Walla Walla University
Last Wednesday, February 19th, the cephalopod community lost a long time champion for octopuses, the giant Pacific octopus especially. Roland was a biologist with the Seattle Aquarium for 33 years and during his time there working with cephalopods contributed a large portion of our current knowledge on cephalopods, and particularly on North Pacific cephalopods such giant Pacific octopus, pacific red octopus and stubby squid. While he was not especially active in the hobbyist community, much of the work he did at the aquarium on keeping octopuses, particularly in enrichment for octopuses, has become standard practice for hobbyists everywhere. He wrote countless peer-reviewed papers on their ecology and behavior and several books including "Aquarium husbandry of Pacific Northwest marine invertebrates" and co-authored "Octopus: The Ocean's Intelligent Invertebrate". He truly delighted in telling anyone who was willing to listen how amazing these creatures are.

On a personal note, Roland played a large role in shaping my own career. My first summer as an undergraduate at Rosario Beach Marine Lab, I decided to undertake a food-choice experiment with a giant Pacific octopus. Having no previous experience keeping or working with octopuses, I contacted Roland to for some advice. He invited me to visit him at the Seattle Aquarium (conveniently located only about and hour from RBML) and to meet with him in person and see their GPO work first hand. Ever concerned about the welfare of octopuses, the first thing he asked me about when I met him was to see if I was keeping the octopus in appropriate conditions. His second statement was to correct my used of the word "octopi". Since that time he had enthusiastically done whatever he could to to help my career as an octopus researcher, putting me in contact with other people in his vast network of ceph researchers, serving on my master's committee, and just dropping me a line every so often to just see how things were going.

At the time of his death Roland was organizing the 2014 Giant Pacific Octopus workshop at Seattle Aquarium that will be held March 29th. My understanding is that the workshop will go on in his honor. I would highly encourage anyone who is interested in octopuses and has the means to attend.
Thank you @Taollan for posting this thoughtful note about the passing of Dr. Anderson. He was a friend of TONMO since the very early days, going back to 2000, and I most recently heard from him just a few months ago. He was a true champion, as you said, and he will be sorely missed.
I enjoyed reading everyone's memories above and wanted to share a few of mine.

Roland was the first person I ever met at a professional conference. At that time, I knew him as the great and powerful Dr. Anderson who knew everything that anyone wanted to know about GPOs. So, when he introduced himself to me during a coffee break I was a bit nervous to say the least! But that was Roland. He didn't seem to care too much about titles and prestige and he was cordial and interested in what anyone might have to say. That conference was in 2006 and I got to know him as a colleague and friend ever since.

As it happened, I ended up spending a lot of time in Seattle over the years and we would usually have lunch at Red Robin (the very first Red Robin) until it was closed. Then we switched to pizza. I'm pretty sure he had a bigger appetite than I did and beer was always good with lunch! Our conversations about enrichment were always interesting. For those wondering, he and I have somewhat different view points on enrichment but our debates were always fun. I remember him saying that for true GPO enrichment, maybe we should just put a seal or sea lion in the exhibit... Obviously jesting. I also remember a talk/paper that he mentioned feeding hot dogs to GPOs as part of an enrichment trial.

I'll be attending the GPO conference mentioned above. It was supposed to be my turn to by Roland lunch this time around. If anyone will be in the Seattle area and/or attending the conference, perhaps we could get a group together and go have lunch during the conference. First round on me!

I also believe that the annual Regional Aquatics Workshop might do something for Roland and there might be other things this year to honor him in some way. I'll certainly never look at a GPO without thinking of him.

Interesting that you should mention that conference in 2006, considering the shirt that I am wearing at this moment. Is that the same conference you are referring to? It was at that conference that Roland introduced me to Janet Voight and David Scheel.
We should definitely meets up at the GPO workshop to have lunch and remember Roland.

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