In memoriam: Jasper Konter, committed mentor and exceptional scientist

Jasper, Bridget and their boys.

Jasper counterProfessor of Earth Sciences at the University of Hawaii in Mānoa and beloved colleague and friend, died unexpectedly on July 3rd.

“Jasper was an extraordinary and curious scientist, an inspirational teacher and mentor, and a compassionate and caring individual who was deeply devoted to his family,” he said Chip FletcherSchool of Ocean and Earth Sciences and Technology (SOEST) Interim Dean. “He will be greatly missed.”

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Jasper counter

Konter earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in science from the University of Amsterdam and his PhD from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, where he met his wife Bridget Smith-Konter, who is also one AH Mānoa Professor of Earth Sciences. After a postdoctoral stay at San Diego State University (SDSU) he joined the faculty of the University of Texas at El Paso.

Counter was then recruited by the AH Mānoa Department of Earth Sciences for his world-recognized leadership in conducting detailed isotopic measurements of volcanic rocks to shed light on the oceanic origins of island chains that at the time emphasized the Samoan chain but have since included the Hawaiian Emperors, Cook-Australs, and others volcanic provinces.

Garrett Apuzen-Itochairman of SOEST‘s Department of Earth Sciences said of Konter, “Jasper’s numerous collaborators span the entire western hemisphere Hawaii to Europe. As a consultant, he was incredibly dedicated to the education, professional development, and overall well-being of his undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral fellows. Jasper delivered his classes with deep insight, creative visual presentations and sensitivity to students of all ability levels and backgrounds. Jasper was also deeply concerned with improving earth science education and engagement with a more diverse student population. He put that interest into practice as a co-investigator on two National Science Foundation-supported projects, one providing research experiences for undergraduate students with backgrounds not well represented in the earth sciences, and the other project supporting summer short courses in earth sciences for high school students in Hawaii (EPʻIK). Jasper was an extremely trustworthy, reliable and respected colleague and friend. He has served his students and faculty with heart and produced research that will bring him lasting recognition AH Manoa.”

Aaron Pietruszka, an Associate Specialist at the Department of Earth Sciences, worked and collaborated with Konter in two main phases over 20 years. “Our initial collaboration began when Jasper was a student working in my isotope lab SDSU, and continued his postdoctoral research on iron isotopes in basaltic lavas from Samoa,” wrote Pietruszka. “He was exceptionally creative and careful in the laboratory early in his career, and these qualities led directly to his many exciting scientific discoveries. I’ve never met anyone as talented in the technical aspects of instrumentation as Jasper. He could fix almost anything! We stayed in touch over the years and I was thrilled to come to my senses AH 2019 to work with him again on new projects in the SOEST isotope laboratory. Together we have accomplished a lot in a short amount of time and I will forever be grateful for everything Jasper taught me. I miss him much.”

Jasper is survived by his wife Bridget, his two children, father Gerard and sister Linda.

For information on supporting Jasper’s GoFundMe page, see SOEST‘s site.

– By Marcie Grabowski

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