Prof. Mark Bain, natural resources, died on Wednesday at the age of 56. He had taught systems ecology, the study of biodiversity, at Cornell for 22 years.
Bain died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, according to Prof. Emeritus Thomas Gavin, natural resources. ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is caused by the degeneration of the upper and lower neurons in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement.
In fall 2011, Bain supervised honors research, graduate individual study and graduate, master’s and doctoral thesis research in the Department of Natural Resources, according to the department’s website.
Bain’s colleagues said they remembered him for his laugh and his ability to give good advice. According to Gavin, Bain helped many faculty members in the department.
“For me, the most unforgettable detail of Mark’s personality was his laugh,” Gavin said in an email Monday night. Gavin’s office was next to Bain’s in Bruckner Hall.
“The sound of his unique laugh will forever be emblazoned in my memory,” he said.
Gavin said Bain was passionate about many of his hobbies, from research to teaching to cooking, which Gavin said was one of his hobbies.
“It was Mark’s personality that was most memorable,” Gavin said. “He was always optimistic and upbeat. Every problem was solvable. Every situation was interesting. And every challenge was worth tackling in a thorough and thoughtful manner.”
Bain primarily conducted research on the Great Lakes ecosystem and the Hudson River, according to Chris Solomon ’01, who worked with Bain.
“My first real field job in aquatic ecology was with Mark, working with sturgeon on the Hudson River,” Solomon wrote in a post to the natural resource department’s website this week. “It was fantastic, and most of my next few jobs were with him as well. I probably would not be where I am today, in a job that I love, were it not for him.”
Born April 11, 1955, in Gary, Ind., Bain earned his bachelor’s degree at West Virginia University, his master’s at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and his Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, according to the Department of Natural Resources’ website.
Bain published more than 100 scientific articles over the course of his career and received several Cornell faculty awards, including “Top 15 professors at Cornell” and “Course among the best 15 at Cornell” in 1998. He was also awarded the President’s Outstanding Educator Award by the University in 1996, according to his profile on the University’s website.
Bain is survived by his wife, Jane Barden, and his two sons, Paul and Gary.