A tribute to Dr. David C. Kadko

Visionary Scientist and Friend

Dr. David Kadko standing on sea ice during a research expedition in the Arctic Ocean.

Sadly we announce the passing of Dr. David Kadko on February 20, 2022. Dave left us with wonderful memories, his deep love of family and dear friends, and the legacy of his many scientific achievements. He is survived by his loving wife Esperanza Gonzalez and her extended family, as well as his sister Carolyn Doueck, brother Sam Kadko, brother-in-law Howard Doueck, and his niece Sarah Kadko Doueck.
Dave was born on October 2, 1951, and raised in Brooklyn, NY, the son of Mr. Meyer Kadko and Mrs. Edna Kadko Weiss. He attended Lafayette High School where his father taught science. Dave graduated from Brooklyn College, City University of New York in 1973 with a BS in Chemistry (Magna Cum Laude). He then received an M.A. and M.Phil. degrees in Oceanography from Columbia University in 1974 and 1975, respectively. He conducted research with his advisor Prof. Wallace Broecker with support from an NSF Doctoral Fellowship, graduating with a Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1981. He was awarded a research fellowship from the National Research Council upon graduation.

Dave had a long and distinguished career, including employment at the US Geological Survey (1983-1988), at Oregon State University’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences (1989-1990), and the University of Miami’s (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (1990-2014). He also served as an Associate Program Manager at the NSF. In 2014, he joined Florida International University’s Applied Research Center as a Research Professor and Associate Director. He was a Fulbright Fellow at the University of Cambridge during 1996-1997 and he served on the US RIDGE and US GEOTRACES Scientific Steering Committees.

Dave authored more than 70 peer-reviewed publications and was involved in numerous national and international professional activities. His early research focused on seafloor geochemistry, including early studies of hydrothermal vents. He was subsequently well known for his work with GEOTRACES, an international program whose mission is to identify processes and quantify fluxes that control the distributions of key trace elements and isotopes in the ocean, and to establish the sensitivity of these distributions to changing environmental conditions.

In August of 2015, Dave led a team of researchers to the Arctic Ocean to conduct experiments that will contribute to better understanding the effects of global climate change in that system. The Arctic GEOTRACES initiative was part of an international, multiple icebreaker effort—involving the United States, Canada, and Germany—and included scientists from many nations. Dave was the lead investigator and chief scientist aboard the Coast Guard icebreaker USCGC HEALY. The international program was unprecedented in regional scope and scientific breadth. This effort marked the first time that such grand scale, coordinated geochemical measurements were performed in the Arctic Ocean. Data gathered by Dave and others will help model feedback mechanisms and future trajectories of Arctic change; the measurements establish a baseline against which future conditions will be compared.

Dave loved to play basketball and golf (he had a great short game!), working in his garden, and especially fly fishing near his cabin in Montana and in the backwaters of the Everglades National Park. He is deeply missed but his scientific impacts will endure.

Dennis Hansell and Bill Landing

In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting donations to the FIU Applied Research Center Foundation (link below), United Way, WLRN, Yellowstone Public Radio, Food for the Poor, and the Alzheimer’s Association.

Dr. David Kadko and his wife Esperanza Gonzalez on October 17,​ 2019, having received a Faculty Award for Excellence in Research and Creative Activities at the Florida International University Faculty Convocation Award.

Remembrances from Dave’s Family and Colleagues

Those persons willing to contribute additional memories or stories about Dave can post them at the end of the following google doc and they will be added to the tribute web page: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1dZ8w5URsuQT9C_aJY1pmBxIFR7fScKffUHoq4xBDGhk/edit?usp=sharing

Dave’s sister Carolyn Doueck

Everyone knows that as an adult, David was a force to be reckoned with; and you all know what a brilliant scientist he was. Let me tell you who he was before all of that.

He was strong, always determined, bright, lively, and very curious. He was not easily deterred. When he was bullied as a young boy, by a much older, stronger boy he was determined to change that. This was an influence to a part of the man he was to become; physically and mentally strong, with a good sense of social justice. When he decided he wanted to play the flute, he bought a secondhand instrument on his own, with his own money; and of course, taught himself to play it. As a curious young boy, after an appendectomy, he insisted that the doctor show it to him. He thought it looked like a worm. And of course, his love of fishing. This love started in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, continued in upstate NY at our aunt’s house; and was always a part of his life.

Raised in Brooklyn. We walked to our local public school from kindergarten through 8th grade, PS 99. He went to Lafayette HS, where his father taught science. He then went to Brooklyn College, where his father had been in its 13th graduating class. His father was a Russian immigrant coming to US as a boy. His mother was born and raised in New York.

Lastly, of course, he was my brother, and I will miss him.

Dr. Mark Stephens, longtime associate, friend and collaborator

I first met Dave in 1990. I was a graduate student at the University of Miami, and he had just been hired as an associate professor. He had a new project involving the use of radioactive tracers to study the carbon cycle in the equatorial Pacific. The study appealed to me, and I joined his lab to pursue my PhD under his mentorship. Soon I was off to Hawaii and Tahiti to take part in the JGOFS EqPac cruise. Over the next few years, as I worked towards my degree, Dave gave me a lot of space to make the project my own with just enough nudging to keep things on track. We had developed a good working relationship where our two very different personalities could not just coexist, but we complemented each other’s strengths as we pursued scientific discoveries in some amazing parts of the world.

Over the next couple decades, at UM and then at FIU, Dave led us on some great adventures as he developed new applications of beryllium-7 as a tracer of ocean mixing, upwelling, and aerosol deposition. We shipped our pumps and tanks and fibers to Bermuda, Brazil, Ecuador, Germany, Seattle and various other ports. And there were also ice camps and icebreakers. From our first trip to the far north (in 1997 for the SHEBA project), the Arctic held a special place in our hearts.

I think people in the community who knew Dave recognized his passion for science. He was focused and driven. The guy was hard core. He may have ruffled some feathers from time to time. Aside from that, he had a heck of a sense of humor. He cracked me up with his observations, which were usually spot on.

Some of his colleagues have reached out to me this week and shared memories of working with Dave, and how he always answered their calls or got back to them quickly to discuss a paper or proposal. We’ll miss Dave, but hopefully we can continue making new discoveries using the techniques he developed.

Drs. Ines Triay and Joseph Sinicrope – Colleagues and friends at FIU

Dr. Ines Triay, Executive Director at ARC, recalls this about Dr. Kadko, “A pioneer in his field with one of the finest minds, one of the kindest hearts, and one of the most contagious laughs who never hesitated to mentor others, help those less fortunate, speak truth to power, demand excellence (especially of himself), and work tirelessly to discover the secrets of the universe. His sense of humor was unique, his curiosity insatiable, and his ability to communicate effectively impressive. An exceptional conversationalist and writer who would never use a word without asking himself whether it contributed to the conveyance of the message.

We’ll always remember his kindness and his eagerness to help others while exhibiting the utmost discipline for his scientific pursuits. The impact of David Kadko on each one of our lives is priceless and his impact on Geoscience awe-inspiring.”

Joseph Sinicrope, Research Scientist at ARC expressed that “I would add that he was absolutely tenacious and uncompromising in his pursuit of scientific truth, and relentlessly pushed through obstacles that detracted from its accomplishment. Mark and I were commenting this morning [that] you always knew where you stood with Dave, and this made all interactions with him incredibly honest and sincere. I am going to miss our talks, both in the office and over drinks!… Semper Fi… Joe.”

Other colleagues at FIU recalled Dr. Kadko’s love of playing golf and basketball, gardening, and getting away to Montana’s Yellowstone National Park where, as an avid fly fisherman, he could think and do some of his best writing. He also had a fondness for sweets and never turned down desserts and chocolates!

Dr. Paul Quay, friend and collaborator since graduate school

Dave and I shared quite a bit of the NY attitude that one acquires growing up in Brooklyn, like Dave, or Queens, like me. We both went to city high schools and city colleges and then grad school at Columbia. NYC boys through and through. We shared an office at Lamont. We competed against each other whether it was on the basketball court or in class. During this past year Dave and I had our typical back and forth on a paper we were writing. He described my ideas with four letter words, and I returned the favor. We loved it. This is the way it is for two friends who respect and appreciate each other. This was what we shared for 40 years. I’m going to miss Dave and my life will be noticeably less joyful.

In grad school Dave began a tradition of having Christmas dinner with me. In NY, it was at my mom’s and when Dave moved to Oregon State University and I moved to University of Washington it continued in Seattle. Good times between two NYC guys. (photo below)

Although Brooklyn-bred Dave was a square peg in a round hole when it came to life in Corvallis during his stay at OSU, his friendship with Jack Dymond began his love for fly fishing that lasted a lifetime.

Dave and I golfed together whenever we had the opportunity. I never let him forget that I could outdrive him. He always reminded me that he won all the rounds. Drive for show, putt for dough.

Paul Quay (left) and Dave at Christmas in Seattle around 1985.

Dr. Bob Anderson, longtime friend and collaborator

Dave was a visionary scientist who understood the importance of research in the rapidly changing Arctic Ocean. Without his leadership, the US would not have participated in the GEOTRACES coverage of the Arctic Ocean during 2015. Indeed, the Arctic Ocean was not in the decadal plan for US GEOTRACES cruises until Dave made it his mission to convince his colleagues that the Arctic was too important to pass up. Dave represented US interests at the first international GEOTRACES Arctic Ocean planning workshop in 2009. He then organized workshops involving US colleagues in 2010 and in 2012 that laid the groundwork for a US GEOTRACES expedition to the Arctic Ocean in 2015, for which he served as the chief scientist.

Dave was also a pioneer in GEOTRACES synthesis efforts, combining radionuclides with trace metal data to obtain fluxes and residence times of the metals from the Arctic Ocean to the tropical Pacific. In one of his last papers, he was also able to quantify atmospheric deposition of trace elements using global satellite rainfall products. His efforts show us what is possible with GEOTRACES data while serving as a roadmap for others who follow in his footsteps.

Other aspects of Dave’s activities outside of his research illustrate principles that would also benefit other scientists. Many people become Earth and Ocean scientists because of a deep appreciation for the natural world. Dave was no exception. He kept himself in good physical shape so that he could enjoy the outdoors, including fishing from south Florida to remote locations on the Yellowstone River. Just as in his role as a GEOTRACES scientist, many aspects of Dave’s life outside of his research provide examples that others would benefit from following.

Mr. Gary Massoth, scientific collaborator

In checking on Google Scholar, I was surprised that we were co-authors on 4 papers between 1986 and 1998, and probably shared ship time on even more of my 88 cruises. Dave contributed to our understanding of chemical reservoirs in the subseafloor using mostly Rn-222 systematics and other isotopic approaches. Early on he provided insight regarding methane fluxes from clathrate accumulations in shelf sediments, newly appreciated at the time. Regarding subseafloor hydrothermal reservoirs, he contributed to our understanding of the inventories and residence times of key chemical tracers. He extended his isotopic work to elucidate the rates of some key geochemical processes that occur in dispersing hydrothermal plumes, providing early insight regarding the significance of hydrothermal inputs to the oceans.

Dr. Donald Rice, longtime friend and colleague

Few people I have known wear their inner Life Force so close to the surface as Dave. Or so authentically, honestly, and effectively. It is a quality that once seen in another person is not easily forgotten and virtually impossible to imitate. Well done, Dave..

Please excuse my rambling, but I am finding this news hard to accept. It lacks symmetry — or something. It’s hard to imagine marine chemists arguing without Dave revving up the repartee. His trademark no-holds-barred newyorkishness. He was a good friend and colleague. A rambunctious little brother you can’t help but love.

Anything I have written about Dave could never come close to doing him justice. Please feel free to convey any of my clumsy attempts to honor him to Esperanza and the rest of his family and friends. He was every inch a decent and good man — and an endless delight to know. More than that, a faithful colleague and friend. One without a second.

Dr. Doug Hammond, longtime friend and collaborator

Dave was a good friend.  We actually got off to a bad start when he had just joined the Lamont program and I was about to graduate.  I recall standing at a sink, washing sample bottles to get ready for fieldwork. He turned down an invitation to assist, and he sat and watched, waiting for the bus to the City and rambling on as he often could.  I did point out the benefits of helping, to no avail.  Perhaps it was the subsequent experience of carrying out his own research as part of a team, but I found that over the years, he did become quite helpful and really contributed, whether it was as a reviewer, an NSF rotator, an encouraging comment about a poster, or taking on co-leadership of the GEOTRACES Arctic expedition.  Dave could be pretty blunt, but I know he had his soft side.  I recall him commenting once that he was ready to chill out and go play his flute in the park.  Who would have guessed?  And who would guess that a kid from Brooklyn would develop such a love for the wilds of Montana where he acquired a cabin. He was kind enough to offer me to join his Arctic research program with Rob Mason last summer, when he was unable to go.  He told me it would be beautiful and it was.  I will miss his candor, humor, and knack for finding interesting science.  

Prof. Rana Fine, friend and collaborator

When I first met David over 30 years ago and to the end, he was first and foremost a scientist. Like most of us – over those years David changed, maybe even mellowed. I am so glad that he and I had a chance to talk about these changes just a few months ago. David found the love of his life, his wife Esperanza Gonzalez. Thank you to Esperanza for being there for him. David became a fly fisher-person, and developed a love for the countryside around Yellowstone. David worked with and regarded women scientists. He and I shared an interest and funding in the Geotracers program, where he had a vision for and co-led the Arctic program. The maverick student of Wally Broecker became a very successful geoscientist. Kudos David for doing it your way!

Steve Emerson, colleague and friend

I knew Dave Kadko his entire scientific career.  We were both graduate students at Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory.  He came into Wally Broecker’s student group three or four years after I did, and our paths crossed frequently after we left Columbia.  Early in my career I spent some time at sea with Dave, and I followed his research until his death.  Dave was unique:  his approach to oceanographic research was smart and clever.  He was able to take his own path to discovering how radioisotopes reveal the secrets of marine geochemistry.  His personal interactions could be both attentive and sometimes competitive as well as warm and caring and sometimes impossible.  Above all, though,  he was a loyal friend, and I will miss the joy of hearing his voice and seeing his smiling face.

Prof. Kirk Cochran, colleague and collaborator

I first met Dave Kadko in the early 1970’s. We were on similar educational tracks, both starting graduate school in 1973-74. I was at Yale working with Karl Turekian and Dave was at Lamont with Wally Broecker. Karl and Wally were great friends, both having graduated from Wheaton College and then Lamont for their PhDs. At that time, they arranged joint meetings with grad students of both groups on a semiregular basis, meeting either at Yale or Lamont. Fierce (but friendly) arguments about science would routinely break out between Karl and Wally, leaving us students wide-eyed. Somewhat to our mutual surprise, it turned out that that Dave and I were working on similar areas of research for our PhD theses- natural U-Th series radionuclides in deep-sea sediments. Indeed, both of us modeled the distribution and flux of 226Ra in deep-sea sediments in papers that were published in the same issue of Earth & Planetary Science Letters (vol. 49, 1980). I received my PhD in 1979 and went on to Woods Hole, while Dave went to the USGS after graduating. Our paths crossed again later in the 80’s when we were both funded to participate in the Manganese Nodule Project (MANOP). That collaboration resulted in a jointly written article, again on 226Ra in deep-sea sediments. Dave later did fundamental research on applying natural radionuclides to hydrothermal vent processes, and in 2008, I persuaded him to co-author a chapter for a book that would merge his hydrothermal fluid results with my pore water results in a synthesis of natural radionuclides in marine “groundwaters”. Our professional paths crossed most recently in a collaborative GEOTRACES project involving the Pacific Meridional Transect along 152°W. That project is getting to the publication stage, and I will very much miss Dave’s involvement. He had a keen sense of how to pull large data sets together into a coherent whole. In all my interactions with Dave, I always enjoyed his “New York” sense of humor and perspectives on issues that mattered deeply to him. He was a superb colleague and collaborator in every sense. Farewell, Dave.

Michiel Rutgers van der Loeff, GEOTRACES colleague and friend

I knew Dave through Arctic GEOTRACES. From the first ideas to start a coordinated GEOTRACES project in the Arctic, Dave has put all his energy to make this come true. While the plans ripened we met at several meetings and talked about beryllium, thorium, or hiking – he inspired me with the stories of his remote nature spot in Montana – and running. It turned out that we have the same best time on the marathon, meaning that we know how it feels just not to break that magical 3-hour limit. But we did reach another goal when we met at the North Pole on the memorable occasion of the GEOTRACES rendez-vous of Healy and Polarstern in 2015. I am very thankful to have experienced that with Dave.