Development & Alumni Relations Office 

Patrick James Sandilands Boaden (1936-2013)

Dr Pat Boaden, marine biologist, musician, poet, advocate for wildlife, and former Director of the Queen’s University Marine Laboratory in Portaferry, passed away after a long illness on 11 November 2013. Pat (Dr Boaden to many students) was an internationally recognised expert on ‘meiofauna’ or interstitial fauna—the astonishing microscopic creatures that live among sand grains on the sea floor. He was much loved by the people who knew him, and he made even the rainiest day on the seashore a delightful adventure.

He was born in Andover, Hampshire in 1936, and educated at Wansted High School in Essex; he completed his university and postgraduate studies in Wales, with a BSc from University College of North Wales and then research for his PhD studies at the Marine Sciences Laboratories, Menai Bridge (now School of Ocean Sciences, Bangor University), where he met his wife. The distinctive goatee arrived in 1959 and stayed for the rest of his life. His career with Queen’s University Belfast began as an assistant lecturer, immediately after finishing his doctoral research in 1961. His post was initially as a temporary contract but extended far longer than anticipated, seeing Pat become acting director of the Marine Laboratory in Portaferry in 1968 and permanent director starting in 1971. He oversaw a considerable expansion of activity in the Marine Laboratory, from undergraduate field courses to a new research boat Nerilla commissioned in 1975. He inspired countless students to pursue marine biology and continued mentoring younger researchers until his death. He published 60 scientific papers, including highly cited fundamental work that laid the foundation for wide-ranging large-scale research projects; he was the first to observe the invasive seaweed Sargassum in Strangford Lough, and also wrote on the contributions of rare meiofaunal groups to understanding the origins of animal life on earth. He had an encyclopaedic knowledge of marine life small and large; during shore walks with the public or eminent scientists alike he could identify nearly any marine animal put in front of him, no matter how tiny.

Pat sat on an enormous number of professional committees particularly concerned with the environment and conservation of Strangford Lough, a passion he continued to pursue in retirement, serving as Chairman of Ulster Wildlife and an active member of their board of trustees from 2002-2010.

Pat wrote an extensive and often hilarious serialised history of the Marine Laboratory published in the Journal of the Upper Ards Historical Society. He also played an active role in parish affairs for the Church of Ireland, Ballyphilip. He was an acclaimed speaker and would often lead otherwise austere scientific gatherings in songs of his own composition. He was always musical, playing in a zoology department jazz band, and was an enthusiastic fiddle player. Among his professional writings, he is famous for authoring a scientific paper entirely in rhyming couplets, which was equally good science and poetry. He was a humble polymath, and above all, fun.

Pat is survived by his wife Cherry Boaden, their three children, Sarah, Jonathan, and Helen, and their families.



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