UHM Dept. of Earth Sciences banner, sunset over Diamond Head, (c) Ken H Rubin

In Memoriam: Jasper Konter

Japser Konter

Jasper Konter
Personal Website

Reflections by Hubert Staudigel, Jasper's Ph.D. Advisor

Jasper's passing is a huge loss, not only for his family but also for the long trail of friends and many mentors turned colleagues he left behind from his professional journey. This journey took him from the Free University Amsterdam, to Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California at San Diego, San Diego State University, The Ecole Normale in Lyons/France, the University of Texas El Paso and finally to the University of Hawaii, Manoa Campus in Honolulu. At each point in this journey, he stood out as a wonderful person, and amazing student and colleague who easily established deep, lifelong friendships whether you saw him every day or every few years. These lifelong friendships now appear way too short and there are so many of us who have a hard time grappling with his passing.

Jasper collecting fresh Lava from Pu'U O'o in September 2003
Jasper Konter

Jasper first came to Scripps Institution of Oceanography from the Free University Amsterdam as an undergraduate volunteer for a research cruise to study the geochemical evolution and the submarine geology and geophysics of volcanoes in the Samoan Island chain. Normally, these volunteer positions are filled by US undergraduates only, but his application from the Netherlands was so strong that he was recruited over many quite qualified US candidates. He was an exceptional student who quickly proved himself as a valuable member of the science team, eager to put to work his strong education as a petrologist and geologist from the Free University Amsterdam. He thrived in the challenging shipboard environment, where he quickly picked up the many skills it takes to master seagoing science: navigation, mapping, dredging, processing rocks for petrography, geochemistry and geochronology, and archiving data produced during a cruise. In hindsight, it appears that his education and career was deeply influenced by what he learned on this cruise, and how he collaborated with the science team that was drawn not only from Scripps, but also from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and other US Institutions. This cruise gave him the opportunity to learn from an amazing group of geochemists, geochronologists, geophysicists, geodynamicists, and computer scientists, that all enjoyed greatly in mentoring and collaborating with Jasper.

After completion of his studies in Amsterdam he joined the Geophysics curricular group at Scripps as a doctoral student. There he received an interdisciplinary education where he advanced his skills as a petrologist and geochemist, but also made his mark as a top student in the program. This education uniquely prepared him to make substantive scientific advances in fields as diverse as volcano seismology, trace element geochemistry, and geodynamic modeling, all supported by his creative use of visualization techniques.

Hubert Staudigel, Cathy Constable, Jasper Konter and Lisa Tauxe
on Fang Glacier on Mt Erebus, Ross Island Antarctica (January 2004)
Jasper Konter

One of the central themes of his scientific work at Scripps involved the geochemistry of the aptly named Jasper seamount located off the shore of Baja California. Early in his career as a graduate student he obtained funding and organized a dredging cruise to Jasper, and he, as the chief scientist staffed his cruise with fellow students and independently pulled off a very successful operation, without any cruise participation of his mentors. This cruise not only allowed him to contribute an exciting and original study based on this cruise, he also managed to work up massive amounts of orphaned data left from earlier investigations. This shows that Jasper could not only stand on his own by pulling off the study he promised to do, but also had the tenacity it takes to deal with orphaned data, that tend to be notorious for difficulties in recovery from typically analogue sources, and vetting them with an appropriate quality control. The latter required Jasper to interact with a range of investigators now in multiple institutions, all of whom gave their full support to this young promising graduate student.

Helicopter- Passenger Jasper in Antarctica (January 2004)
Jasper Konter

Jasper developed a keen interest in the isotope systems of Hafnium and Iron that potentially could give him important insights into the origin of intraplate volcanoes. He also recognized the need for really understanding the analytical aspects of his investigations and so he ventured out to visit places that are widely known for pioneering these techniques. These included in particular the isotope lab at San Diego State University and at the Ecole Normale Superieure in Lyons/France. There he not only received a first-rate training as a laboratory based geochemist, but also revealed himself as a major asset to both of these labs in helping to keep the laboratory in top shape and running smoothly. These experiences made him into a highly respected member of the geochemical community and set him up as a competent developer and operator of a first rate geochemical laboratory facility.

Jasper and John Helly figuring out some IT issues exploring seamounts in the West Pacific (April 2005)
Jasper Konter

Jasper’s scientific work at Scripps did not only include geochemical work but also seismology. After his first visit to Vailulu’u Seamount he learned about the emergence of a WHOI/IGPP seismic monitoring data which he was eager to work on. Mentored by seismologists at IGPP and at the Hawaii Volcano Observatory he honed and adapted his skill set to volcano seismology and ended up writing a paper of volcano-tectonic seismology of Vailulu’u, without much assistance needed by his co-authors who valued him highly for his independence and abilities to engage in a specialized field of seismology. This paper was published in a first-rate scientific journal and received very high marks from its reviewers.

Jasper and Bridget at their wedding with Jake Perez who officiated. March 18 2006.
Jasper Konter

Jasper also had a passion for instructive and visually pleasing graphics. He knew how to work with raw data, process and model them and then find innovative ways to represent them in original multi-dimensional colorful graphics. This includes map-making, “fly-throughs”, graphics for geochemical data, and combining these data in geospatial representations of geochemical or geophysical data. He did not mind using “canned” software, but he always found ways to add his own ways to make these graphics his originals. These served the purpose of illustrating a scientific thought as well as being visually pleasing. It is no surprise that Jasper participated in and earned honors in a student illustration competition at Scripps.

Jasper and Matthijs at his wedding party March 18 2006.
Jasper Konter

Jasper was also invited as a student field assistant on a paleomagnetic investigation of the Mt Erebus volcanics, where he very quickly turned into an expert operator of a motorized rock drill under challenging conditions. The opportunity also exploited his understanding of volcanic rocks helpful in choosing meaningful sampling locations. His calm, witty, and unflappable approach allowed him to be a valuable and productive collaborator in this often unforgiving extreme polar environment. He never lost his cool and carried his weight, while being funny and entertaining in his understated way.

After completion of his thesis, Jasper went on to San Diego State for a short postdoctoral appointment where he kept close ties with Scripps. He then moved on to the University of Texas where he assumed a professorship within months of competing his PhD, a task that can be accomplished of only very few freshly minted PhD’s.

Jasper’s time with Scripps was a formative one, where he could develop his amazing potential as a Geoscientist with a solid footing in geology, volcanology, geochemistry and geophysics. He put these capabilities to good use, becoming an internationally well recognized scientist and teacher to his own students, all this, while being a fun guy that everybody enjoyed having around.

We will miss him, as we struggle to fill the tragic hole created by his loss, with memories that give us a little bit more of a fond smile instead of only tears as times passes. Farewell Jasper, you will stay forever in our hearts.

Jasper and Hubert Staudigel visiting Pu"U Oo in September 2003