Honorary & Past Members

Vida Stout about 1990

Vida Mary Stout
1930 – 2012

Vida was a member of a highly distinguished New Zealand family. Her father was a surgeon and vice chancellor of Victoria University of Wellington and her grandfather was the 13th premier of New Zealand and later chief justice. Her brother John had also been a distinguished scientist at the Soil Bureau. Vida was dux at Woodford House before going to Victoria University where she did her BSc and MSc in Zoology. Her thesis was on the two large red water mites found in ponds. She wrote two long papers on mites from her thesis and another on the rhabdocoel flatworm Mesostoma – all were published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of New Zealand. She then went to Bedford College, University of London where she did her PhD on Daphnia. This was followed by post-doctoral work in Sweden before returning to New Zealand. In 1968 she and the late Ann Chapman founded the New Zealand Limnological Society (now the NZ Freshwater Sciences Society) as a forum where freshwater workers could meet at an annual conference and contribute to a newsletter. Vida was the first president of the Society and Ann was the first newsletter editor. The Society, now in its 44th year is one of their greatest legacies.
Vida was appointed to the staff of the Zoology Department, University of Canterbury in 1958 and remained there until her retirement in 1996. She was then a Reader (Associate Professor) and had been Dean of Science and Deputy Chair of the university’s Academic Administration Committee. She played a significant role in establishing a new Masters course in Environmental Science at Canterbury and spent some years as a member of the South Canterbury Conservation Board. Vida supervised the research of numerous students and always put their interests first. Her first PhD student was Doug Craig who studied blepharicerid midges. Other doctoral students she supervised were Jim Robb (midges), Derek Staples (bullies), Paddy Ryan (eels), John Hayes (trout), John Stark (lake-weed fauna), Laorsri Sanoamung (rotifers), Janet Wilmshurst (lake palaeobiology) and Barbara Schakau (midges in lake sediment cores). Brian Timms undertook a post-doctoral fellowship under her direction and used it to make extensive studies of the benthic invertebrate communities of South Island lakes. Vida also supervised Masters and BSc (Honours) students on a wide variety of topics, including mammals, water birds, fish and various aspects of the ecology of lakes and ponds.
Vida’s own research resulted in the compilation of important, pioneering information on the biology and chemistry of South Island lakes. She was most interested in the nature of zooplankton communities, their changes over time, and their relationships to eutrophication, land use and hydro power developments. She visited a vast number of South Island lakes, and had a happy knack of convincing people to take her to remote places. She also undertook long-term studies on lakes Grasmere and Pearson in the Cass area of inland Canterbury, and in the 1960s and 70s wrote timely reviews and book chapters on freshwater biology in New Zealand. She introduced numerous students to the study of lakes by employing them to identify and count plankton and accompany her in the field.  Fieldwork was undoubtedly one of her greatest pleasures and she got much enjoyment from the weekends spent at Cass with the 4th year limnology classes. These often featured vigorous tramps to lakes and streams, an oft remembered example being the epic 14 km Lake Blackwater expedition of 1979 in a howling norwester (see photo).
Exhausted members of the Lake Blackwater expedition, Cass (1979). From left, John Stark, Richard Rowe, Lynley Pearce, John Hayes, Brian Timms, Vida, Malcolm Forster, Mike Winterbourn.

Vida was an enthusiastic member of SIL, the International Limnological Society, and rarely missed its triennial conferences. She regularly gave talks on her New Zealand work and many of her research papers were published in the SIL proceedings. Her most frequently cited paper is “Lakes in the mountain region of Canterbury, New Zealand” Verh. Internat. Verein. Limnol. 17: 404-413 (1969). She was a life member of the Freshwater Biological Association (UK) and was an honorary life member of our Society.
Vida instructing students at a tarn in Arthur’s Pass about 1995.

In addition to her consuming interest and involvement in teaching, research and administration at the University of Canterbury Vida was an active member of the United Tennis Club for many years. She also played badminton when younger and must have inherited her well developed “ball sense” from her mother who had been New Zealand amateur golf champion. Some years after her retirement she developed debilitating Parkinson’s disease and died in Christchurch on 21 July 2012 aged 82.


Mike Winterbourn

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