A tribute to Water Institute member Bill Taylor

Monday, January 31, 2022

This article was originally published on the Faculty of Science website.

Bill Taylor
Past and present members of the Faculty of Science community are saddened by the news that William David Taylor passed away on January 24, 2022. Bill had a long and distinguished career of service inside and outside the University of Waterloo. He will be remembered with great affection by the many professionals that he trained as students, and by the many colleagues who had the pleasure to work with him in research and administration.

Bill joined the Department of Biology as a professor in 1981 after graduate studies at University of Toronto and postdoctoral research at the National Water Research Institute. He quickly became a key member of the aquatic biology group and proceeded to conduct research that brought him international renown. Bill sustained a long and fruitful line of enquiry into the crucially important phosphorus cycle in lakes and rivers and also made landmark contributions to our understanding of water quality problems and food web dynamics. He contributed importantly to improving our inadequate knowledge of African lakes, at the cost of many weary air miles and at least two internal parasite infections. The quality and importance of his work was reflected in the award of an NSERC Tier I Research Chair, the Frank Rigler Award for major achievement from the Canadian Society for Limnology, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Association for Great Lakes Research, and the Chandler-Misener Award for best paper in the Journal of Great Lakes Research, among other distinctions.

A sharp mind and encyclopedic knowledge of his discipline were combined in Bill with a generosity of spirit and a wonderful sense of humour. This made him a great supervisor of graduate students and other early stage professionals. Many graduates of his lab proceeded to do influential work of their own as professors and research scientists, including in Africa, the Middle East and China. Bill’s willingness to help with research and education projects in challenging locales (Ethiopia, Malawi, Iraq) was characteristic of his generous but also adventurous nature.

Bill gave unselfish service in university administration, notably as Chair of Biology (1996–2001), Associate Dean of Science for Graduate studies (2002–2004), and Associate Dean of Science for Research (2005–2008) before retiring in 2013. He then came out of retirement in 2014 to become Chair for the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences until 2016. He also served generously outside the University, with years of volunteer service to the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the International Joint Commission and the International Association for Great Lakes Research. He was active in research and graduate education until his final months, long after retirement, helping to advise graduate students and to guide research at government agencies, including both federal and provincial environment ministries. Even while chairing the Department of Biology and holding a Canada Research Chair, Bill found time to lead field courses to Canada’s East Coast — despite that (strangely) no teaching credits were given for field course instruction in the department. He just thought it was important.

All who knew him appreciated how Bill combined such intellectual firepower with so much kindness and humour, making him such a grand companion in work and recreation. His enjoyment of the natural environment was evidenced in his love of fly fishing, bird watching, and trail walking- often with friends, dogs, children and grandchildren tagging along. Bill leaves a lovely family of wife Carol, children David, Christine and Kenny, together with in-laws and grandchildren as explained in the obituary the family prepared for him. He will be greatly missed but has left a wonderful legacy.