Remembering Dr. Myles Fisher, a groundbreaking and much loved Alliance scientist

Remembering Dr. Myles Fisher, a groundbreaking and much loved Alliance scientist

Dr. Myles Fisher, an Emeritus of the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, and a groundbreaking agricultural scientist passed away on the 27th of May. He suffered a stroke, which mercifully was sudden and painless. Myles was my colleague, my mentor, and my friend and it is deeply saddening to hear of his death.

Myles, born in an Australian farm, dedicated his life to agricultural science. He started his scientific career as a technician and later obtained his doctorate. He never lost the early skills he developed making him a superb experimentalist always paying attention to details to ensure the accuracy of his observations. As a physiologist, he worked on a range of species and joined CIAT in the late ’80s in the forages program to support a deeper understanding of a number of forage grasses and legumes, and to support breeding efforts on Brachiaria.

Myles was a jack of all trades, equally as comfortable in the field and at the computer. He was at the core of a group of physiologists and agricultural scientists developing crop simulation models, and lead and supported the development of several modules in DSSAT and in the Brachiaria crop model.

Myles talked about climate change long before it was a thing, interested at first in the carbon balance of pasture lands in Latin America. At the height of his career, Myles published a groundbreaking paper in Nature entitled Carbon storage by introduced deep-rooted grasses in the South American savannas which quantified the important role of deep-rooted pastures in the global carbon balance. This pioneering piece of work paved the way for much of the climate change work that CIAT subsequently undertook, and to which Myles continued to contribute to this day.

Since his retirement in 2002, Myles seemed to work harder than ever before. I got to know Myles through a consultancy I worked on with him and Sam Fujisaka to review a program of the Global Environmental Facility. He would be up even before the crack of dawn reviewing documents, and was literally a walking encyclopedia, memorizing every tiny detail and regurgitating it on demand. He supported so many initiatives of the Alliance for Bioversity International and CIAT, including our efforts on water and food, climate adaptation and mitigation, and crop modeling. He was an expert editor who would improve the scientific rigor just as effectively as spotting a missing apostrophe in a bibliographic reference. He was a mentor to so many young researchers, helping them in their early career to design experiments, analyse data, and to publish. I count 77 publications since his retirement in 2002, which is more than many publish in their entire careers.  Truly prolific.

They don’t make men like Myles these days. He was a gentleman and a true man of his word. He mastered the balance of being a straight-shooting Australian with an incredible sense of humanity, humility, and appreciation of people. I’m a richer person for having known him, and I can attest that he contributed to my growth as a scientist and as a person. And I am sure all those who he touched across the Alliance Bioversity-CIAT will say the same. He will be sorely missed.

I invite my colleagues and those who have known and interacted with Myles to make comments to this blog entry as a testament to his life, telling the stories of your interactions with him and the ways in which he has touched our lives.

On behalf of all of those in the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, our thoughts and prayers go out to Myles and his family and friends.

May he rest in eternal peace.