In Memoriam: Amy Ruth Samuels


The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution announces with sorrow the death of Amy Samuels, a noted researcher in the field of animal behavior and conservation biology and a Visiting Investigator at WHOI, on December 9, at her home in West Falmouth after a long battle with cancer.  She was 57.

Amy was one of four children born to the late Peggy and Harold Samuels, noted historians and collectors of western American art.

In 1979, Amy received her BS in biological anthropology and her MS in 1982 in biological ecology from the University of California, Davis.  In 1996, she received her PhD in biological oceanography from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, based upon her ground-breaking research thesis entitled “A systematic approach to measuring the social behavior in bottlenose dolphins.”

During the 1970s, Amy served as the principal trainer and research facility manager for research on language and cognition in chimpanzees at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the University of Pennsylvania, Honey Brook. During this time, she also conducted research on the social relations and reproductive behavior of captive bonnet macaques at the California Primate Research Center at UC, Davis.

From 1982-1987, her field research took her to Kenya where life-long friendships were established with the Maasai.  While in Kenya, her work focused on the behavioral ecology of wild immature savannah baboons in the Amboseli National Park. From 1986 to 2004 Amy was behavioral biologist in the Department of Conservation Biology, Brookfield Zoo, Brookfield, IL.

Most recently, Amy was appointed Visiting Investigator in the Department of Biology at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution where she was documenting the effects of tourism on free-ranging bottlenose dolphins in Key West, FL.

Amy found her second home in Shark Bay, Western Australia, where she became closely associated with the Monkey Mia Dolphin Research Foundation.

Amy was the author of numerous scientific publications and a children’s book, “Follow That Fin: Studying Dolphin Behavior.”

Amy was a competitive ocean swimmer and avid cyclist. She was a talented and much-loved researcher who trained and influenced many scientists.  Her research was notable for its careful, methodical rigor, and she also took great personal pleasure in her work.  Her approach to observing wild animals was respectful and she was deeply concerned about threats to animals and their habitats.  Amy will be much missed by her family and her many friends and colleagues.

Amy is survived by her daughter, Lily Caiming of West Falmouth.  In addition she leaves her brothers Peter of New York City and Matthew of Searsmont, Maine, and her sister Joan Samuels of Staefa, Switzerland, as well as eight nieces and nephews.

A celebration of Amy’s life will be held in the spring of 2009. In lieu of flowers, donations in her memory may be made to The Dolphin Ecology Project, Inc., 727 11th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701, or to the Lily Caiming Samuels Education Trust, P.O. Box 117, West Falmouth, MA 02574.


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