In Memoriam: Umihiko Hoshijima

Umi Hoshijima

Umihiko (Umi) Hoshijima, a postdoctoral researcher in ecology and evolutionary biology, died in a diving accident while working on a research project in collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey near Glacier Bay, Alaska, on Wednesday, August 7. He was 28.

Hoshijima joined the laboratory of Kristy Kroeker, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at UC Santa Cruz, in 2018. He was studying how ocean acidification and warming affect kelp forest species in Alaska, with a particular emphasis on what makes some species more resilient to change than others.

Hoshijima was an accomplished scientific diver who began diving in 2011 and had experience in a wide range of conditions, including diving under the ice for his graduate work in Antarctica. He was also well recognized for his teaching and his generosity with his time, Kroeker said.

He was an impeccable scientist, and often ran workshops to teach students how to code and do scientific analyses,” Kroeker said. “He was beloved by his lab mates and colleagues worldwide.”

Hoshijima was also a talented musician who played multiple instruments. He would often sit on one of the benches outside the Coastal Biology Building during breaks from his work and play the accordion. “He would often do this in the evening as people were leaving work, and I have had many people tell me it was one of the highlights of their day,” Kroeker said.

Hoshijima was broadly interested in the extent to which organisms are adapted to their environment and how that could confer resilience to global change. He started his scientific career as an undergraduate at UC Santa Cruz, where he earned a B.S. in biological sciences, with minors in chemistry and electronic music, in 2013. In graduate school at UC Santa Barbara, he studied the effects of ocean acidification on marine species, from the sea urchins inhabiting the kelp forests near Santa Barbara to the tiny, planktonic snails at the base of the Antarctic food web. He earned his Ph.D. in ecology, evolution, and marine biology in 2018.

An American citizen born to Japanese parents, Hoshijima grew up in Southern California where his father was an adjunct professor at UC San Diego School of Medicine. As a first-generation immigrant, he was passionate about making science inclusive for students of varied backgrounds.

Hoshijima is survived by his father, Dr. Masahiko Hoshijima, his mother Yukiko, and brothers Tsuki and Yumehiko. A memorial ceremony is planned at UC Santa Barbara on Friday, August 16 (see Facebook page for details).