In memoriam: Jasper Konter, dedicated mentor and exceptional scientist

Jasper, Bridget and their boys.

Jasper Konter, professor of Earth sciences at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and beloved colleague and friend, died unexpectedly on July 3.

“Jasper was an exceptional and curious scientist, an inspiring teacher and mentor, and a compassionate and caring person who was deeply devoted to his family,” said Chip Fletcher, School of Ocean and Earth Sciences and Technology (SOEST) interim dean. “He will be greatly missed.”

man smiling
Jasper Konter

Konter earned his bachelor’s and master’s of science degrees from the University of Amsterdam and his doctoral degree from Scripps Institute of Oceanography, where he met his wife Bridget Smith-Konter, who is also a UH Mānoa Earth sciences professor. After conducting post-doctoral research at San Diego State University (SDSU), he joined the faculty of the University of Texas at El Paso.

Konter was then recruited by the UH Mānoa Department of Earth Sciences for his globally recognized leadership in making detailed isotopic measurements of volcanic rocks to illuminate the origins of ocean island chains, which at the time emphasized the Samoa chain, but has since included the Hawaiian-Emperors, Cook-Australs and other volcanic provinces.

Garrett Apuzen-Ito, chairperson of SOEST’s Department of Earth Sciences shared about Konter, “Jasper’s numerous collaborators span the western hemisphere from Hawaiʻi to Europe. As an advisor, he was incredibly dedicated to the education, training, professional development and overall well-being of his undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral mentees. Jasper delivered his courses with deep insight, creative visual presentations, and sensitivity toward students of all ability levels and backgrounds. Jasper also cared deeply about enhancing Earth science education and engagement to a more diverse population of students. He put this interest into action as a co-investigator of two National Science Foundation-supported projects, one of which provides research experiences to undergraduate students from backgrounds not well represented in the Earth sciences, and the other project supports summer short courses in Earth sciences for high school students in Hawaiʻi (EPʻIK). Jasper was a keenly trusted, reliable, and respected colleague and friend. He served his students and the department with heart, and produced research that will bring lasting recognition to UH Mānoa.”

Aaron Pietruszka, an associate specialist in the Department of Earth Sciences, worked and collaborated with Konter in two major phases over 20 years. “Our initial collaboration started when Jasper worked as a student in my isotope laboratory at SDSU, and continued through his post-doctoral research on iron isotopes in basaltic lavas from Samoa,” Pietruszka wrote. “He was exceptionally creative and careful in the lab at an early stage in his career, and these traits led directly to his many exciting scientific discoveries. I have never met anyone else as talented with the technical aspects of instrumentation as Jasper. He could fix just about anything! We kept in touch over the years, and I was thrilled to come to UH in 2019 to work with him again on new projects in the SOEST isotope laboratory. Together, we accomplished a lot in a short amount of time, and I will forever be grateful for everything that Jasper taught me. I miss him immensely.”

Jasper is survived by his wife Bridget, his two children, his father Gerard and his sister Linda.

To support Jasper’s GoFundMe page, see SOEST’s website.

–By Marcie Grabowski

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