John McGowan was a professor emeritus of oceanography in the Integrative Oceanography Division at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego.

His research concerned ocean circulation, the distribution of species, and zooplankton biomass, with a focus on monitoring the biological response to global climate change. He played an important role in the California Cooperative Fisheries Investigations (CalCOFI), a partnership of Scripps, the California Department of Fish and Game, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Service, which has taken hundreds of thousands of ocean measurements and net tows during more than 55 years of cruises from San Francisco to Baja California. The California Current is the best ecologically understood marine region in the world, a direct result of the CalCOFI program.

During his decades at Scripps, McGowan also studied coral reefs and the pearl shell fishery of Micronesia and established a system of marine reserves in Palau. He supervised the Scripps Shore Station Program, the daily measurements of near-shore coastal temperatures and salinities on the entire Pacific Coast. He began a Red Tide and Harmful Algal Bloom monitoring program at Scripps. He also worked with Dan Brown to co-invent the Bongo Net. This net has become a standard sampling tool for researchers all over the world.

McGowan served in the U.S. Navy during World War II with tours of sea duty in the South and North Pacific. He received B.S. and M.S. degrees (with help from the G.I. Bill) from Oregon State University and his PhD in Oceanography from Scripps. He taught the “core course” in Biological Oceanography for more than 30 years and was the Major Professor for 21 PhD candidates. He led many oceanographic expeditions during his time. He went on to become Professor Emeritus.

McGowan was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Oregon State University, and a member of the Western Society of Naturalists, the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography, Sigma Xi, and the Marine Biology Association of the United Kingdom.

He authored more than 75 scientific publications.

Last updated March 2023