Frederick Ernest Joseph Fry

Evolution and Ecology

Developed a model for estimating fish populations using VPA (virtual population analysis)

A physiological ecologist, Fry is known internationally for his development of a new model for the way fish respond to their physical and chemical environment. He divided all environmental effects on fish into five classes: controlling, limiting, lethal, masking and directive. This work helped to increase understanding of how environmental factors interact to affect performance of individual fish and their populations at any given time.

Fry's major contribution to the science of population dynamics was VPA (virtual population analysis). VPA allows researchers to estimate a fish population, based on the annual catches for a year-class, as well as the natural mortality rate. It is a tool now used internationally to manage major fisheries.

In 1945, following a distinguished war service in aviation medicine with the Royal Canadian Air Force (service which resulted in an MBE), Fry went to the University of Toronto as an assistant professor. In 1956 he was appointed Professor of Zoology, and in 1974, Professor Emeritus. In addition to his significant contributions as a teacher and researcher, he played a major role in developing long-term collaborative research projects in several Ontario lakes. These projects still continue, and the work and publications of generations of graduate students have contributed enormously to fisheries management in Ontario.

Fry served as president of the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography (1951), the American Fisheries Society (1966), the Canadian Society of Zoologists (1966), and the American Institute of Fishery Research Biologists (1972). In 1974, the Canadian Society of Zoologists established the Fry medal, presented annually to an outstanding Canadian zoologist, in recognition of his contribution to Canadian science.

Fry's breadth of knowledge ranged beyond zoology, to botany, physics and mechanics. He invented many devices, such as a greenhouse with walls made of plastic water containers to hold the day's heat, and a submersible fish-observation chamber which incorporated the viewing turret from a Lancaster bomber. Upon retirement, Fry continued as an Associate with the Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Toronto, as a consultant, and as editor of the Journal of Great Lakes Research.

Sources: The Canadian Encyclopedia, 2000 ed., Journal of the Fisheries Research Board of Canada 33:298-345, 1976; Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 119:571-573, 1990; Dr. William H. Neill (personal communication).

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