• History

    Collection Manager and Contact: Greg Wahlert

    Robert W. Holmes was born in Dover, NH, in 1925. He began his diatom career at the age of twelve by looking at diatoms and algae in a little pond located on the Haverford College campus, where his father was a professor. Holmes graduated cum laude from Haverford College in 1949. He attended Yale Graduate School for one year and transferred to the University of Oslo for two years. In Oslo he studied marine phytoplankton and biological oceanography under Dr. Trygve Braarud. After completing the studies for a Magistergrad including a paper on the annual cycle of phytoplankton on the Labrador Sea, he transferred to Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California. There he was a research biologist and continued his academic studies receiving a Master's Degree in Oceanography. Research in the tropical Pacific formed the basis of his doctoral dissertation, A Contribution to the Physical, Chemical, and Biological Oceanography of the Northeastern Tropical Pacific, and he received a PhD from the University of Oslo in 1966. During his latter years at Scripps, Holmes was an active member of the Marine Food Chain Group.


    Robert Holmes joined the faculty at UCSB in 1967 and became the first director of the newly established Marine Science Institute. In this position he immediately became involved as one of four UC administrators of the newly formed UC Sea Grant Program. During his tenure as director he organized the Santa Barbara Oil Symposium in response to the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill. He also served as the catalyst for obtaining the Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Laboratory (SNARL) for UC's Natural Land and Water Reserve System (now known as the Natural Reserve System).


    In 1984 he received a visiting professorship from the Japanese Science Foundation to collaborate with Prof. T. Nemoto at the Ocean Reseach Institute (ORI) of the University of Tokyo on cetacean research. Prof. Nemoto helped arrange a tour of marine aquaculture facilities which was useful in Holmes' Sea Grant administrative duties. At this time a grant from the ORI enabled him to return to Japan for further work on cetacean diatoms. During his latter visit and subsequently, he worked extensively with Dr. S. Nagasawa of ORI. At UCSB Holmes also worked with Prof. John Melack in a cooperative program on acid deposition in the high Sierra. Holmes investigated whether diatoms in sediment cores showed a response to acidification in the lake water.


    For many years Holmes collected diatoms from a variety of freshwater and marine habitats in the western US. These collections led to collaboration with a number of other investigators: Pat Sims of the British Museum of Natural History on Aulacodiscus, Frank Round and Dick Crawford of the University of Bristol on the genus Coccneis, A.L. Brigger of Yucaipa, CA, on Entogonia, and Don Croll of Moss Landing Laboratory on the diatoms on diving sea-birds. Professor Holmes retired in 1988 and passed away in 2012.


    Albert Leon Brigger (1892-1981) was born in Ohio, and lived most of his life in California, residing in Yucaipa. He was a Research Associate at California Academy of Sciences and collaborated on diatom research with G. Dallas Hanna and York Mandra of Cal Academy and Robert Holmes of UCSB. During his lifetime, he published 23 articles that included 48 new species descriptions. In 1977, Brigger gave his collection of over 26,000 slides of marine and fossil diatoms to Cal Academy. He gave his book collection of more than 300 titles to Robert Holmes who in turn donated it to the Cheadle Center.

  • Collection Overview

    The Albert L. Brigger and Robert W. Holmes Diatom Collection consists of diatom specimens, slides, photographs, and approximately 300 volumes from Brigger's personal library and from the extensive research collections of Holmes.  A small collection of Brigger's papers is housed at CCBER. The Holmes collection contains approximately 5000 slides, 700 samples and cleaned material, and 500 light and scanning electron microscope images. Bob Holmes' main research interests were the description of diatoms from cetaceans, the diatoms on diving seabirds, and the use of diatoms as a tool for reconstructing the pH of Sierra Nevada lakes. Holmes also studied the variability of the genus Cocconeis and the Aulacodiscus kittonii group. In addition, he sampled diatoms throughout the world in freshwater and marine habitats. His papers are also housed at CCBER.