Remembering Dr. Robert Shipp

MOBILE, AL. (WKRG) – Dr. Robert Shipp was a retired South Alabama professor and Marine Expert who passed away earlier this year. “Bob was just the nicest, most sincere person that you would ever meet,” Dr. Sean Powers said, “Bob was someone who was just so secure in himself…Bob would talk to fishermen the same way he would talk to a University President, a Senator, a Congressman.”

After graduating from Florida State University with his Ph.D in Biology, he joined the faculty at the University of South Alabama and helped found the Department of Marine Sciences, which is now known as the School of Marine and Environmental Sciences. “It’s safe to say none of this would’ve happened if Bob hadn’t taken the faculty position in 1974,” Sean says.

Dr. Shipp spent 40 years at South Alabama building up the program while also teaching out at Dauphin Island Sea Lab for 20 years. Sean says the impact Dr. Bob had on students can still be felt to this day.

Shipp earned the reputation as THE expert on marine fisheries management. His research on the red snapper fishery and the role of artificial reefs helped shape policy for Alabama and across the US. “Bob was the first to really go out there and show people how valuable it could be. And how important ecologically but also economically the fishery can be,” Sean said.

Engaging with fishermen was an important part in his research. Shipp made sure that the fisherman who earned their livelihood here had their voices heard.

“It was rare for scientists to interact with the fishermen,” Sean says, “And now it’s required that scientists interact with the fishermen…and that came just so easy to Bob. It made obvious sense that if he’s gonna study fish and fisheries, he needs to understand what the fishermen were experiencing out on the water.”

One of his biggest accomplishments was publishing his book titled Dr. Bob Shipp’s Guide To Fishes of The Gulf Of Mexico, which is now in it’s second edition. “Bob wrote that book specifically for fishermen,” Sean said, “There weren’t many resources for fishermen…how to identify different species, what they can learn about the life of that fish, how it spends its time. He also added recipes of what to do with the fish when you caught it.”

It didn’t matter if you were a fishermen, student, or complete stranger, Dr. Bob Shipp knew how to draw in a crowd. “It was great to see [their] faces light up when Bob would remember their name. I’ve just never seen a professor have that kind of impact outside the classroom.”

Although he may be gone, Dr. Robert Shipp leaves behind a legacy that will continue to Grow The Gulf Coast for years to come.

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