The Chesapeake Bay watershed suffered a great loss in both its volunteer ranks and scientific community when Robert “Bob” Winfield Hess, 72, of Yorktown, VA, passed away July 14, 2001.
For almost a decade, Hess volunteered for the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay’s Citizen Monitoring Program at a site along Thoroughfare Creek, located near the Goodwin Islands in Yorktown.
Beginning in 1992 and continuing into the early summer of 2001, Bob diligently measured the dissolved oxygen content, pH, temperature, salinity, and water clarity of surface water samples he collected on a weekly basis at a small marina located along this York River tributary.
Twice a month, Hess also collected samples that were analyzed for the nutrients, nitrogen and phosphorous. In 2000, he began collecting samples to be analyzed for parameters affecting the growth of submerged aquatic vegetation (chlorophyll-a and total suspended solids).
A longtime sailor and avid proponent for the protection of the Chesapeake Bay, Hess was a firm believer in the importance of regular and consistent long-term monitoring for understanding the health of the Bay.
As a result of the low dissolved oxygen levels that were detected by Hess, his site was monitored this past summer for oxygen levels as part of a graduate study undertaken in cooperation with the Smithsonian Institution. While discussing the low dissolved oxygen levels, which were thought to be attributable to adjacent decaying emergent vegetation, Hess likened his monitoring work to that of a doctor examining his patient on a regular basis.
Before his work as a volunteer monitor, Hess made a significant mark in the aerospace field, working at the NASA Langley Research Center as a structural dynamics research engineer from 1953 until 1988.
A recognized expert in panel flutter, a field of aeroelasticity, Hess’ consultation resulted in design modifications to the Saturn-Apollo Launch Vehicle. He also held multiple patents on dynamic measurement equipment and authored more than 20 technical reports.
In addition to the loss of an accomplished scientist and Chesapeake Bay proponent, I am saddened by my own personal loss of a new friend.
I had the opportunity to become more acquainted with Hess last year as part of my monthly nutrient sample runs. He was the kind of person who saw the wonder in everyday things and in everyday people.
With the change of the Alliance’s slogan to “The Voice of the Bay,” I can think of no one better than Robert Winfield Hess, to be remembered as just that: a true voice of the Bay representing all: volunteer monitors, scientists, sailors and citizens.
For information about the Citizen Monitoring program, visit its page on the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay’s web site, www.alliancechesbay.org , or contact the Volunteer Monitoring Coordinator at 804-775-0951 or firstname.lastname@example.org .