Cover photo for Richard “Dick” Trumpeter Barber's Obituary
1938 Richard 2023

Richard “Dick” Trumpeter Barber

April 3, 1938 — April 4, 2023


Richard “Dick” Trumpeter Barber, 85, of Gloucester, NC, died peacefully on April 4, 2023, in Hospice Care at Duke University Hospital in Durham with family at his side.

A Burial Rites service is set for 2 p.m., Saturday, August 12, 2023, at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 215 Ann St., in Beaufort, NC.

Born in 1938 to Harry R. and Thelma Seabrook Barber in Bridgeton, NJ, Richard grew up near the marshy shore of Delaware Bay. He loved messing around the water – fishing, duck hunting, scraping and painting boats, figuring out tides – if it involved salt water, he loved it. At age 19 Richard took a summer course in marine ecology taught by marine biologists Eugene Odum and John Ryther at Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA. He was the only undergraduate among 12 graduate students, about which he wrote: “I was outclassed in terms of book learning, but my youth on the Delaware Bay gave me hands-on knowledge of marine ecology (plus boat handling and navigation) that the book-smart graduate students lacked. Odum and Ryther were impressed by my “natural history” insights from time spent with the critters of Delaware Bay. The interest in marine ecosystems awakened in that summer course has remained the focus of my life and research career.”

With a BS degree in zoology and botany (Utah State University) and a PhD in biological sciences (Stanford University), Richard became a biological oceanographer. In 1970, after serving as a postdoctoral fellow and assistant scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, he joined the faculty of Duke University where he remained for most of his adult life. He retired in 2006 as Harvey W. Smith Professor Emeritus of Biological Oceanography.

His research focused on the regulation of biological productivity and living resources in oceanic ecosystems and how they are affected by global-scale climate processes. He conducted shipboard research in the coastal upwelling ecosystems off Peru, in the Arabian Sea, off northwest Africa, in the equatorial Pacific and in the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. He directed large interdisciplinary projects, was the founding director of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, and oversaw the ship operations program (R/V Eastward and R/V Cape Hatteras) at the Duke Marine Lab for many years. Richard generously shared his vast knowledge and loved teaching. Hearing about the success of his students brought him great joy.

He served as president of both the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography and the Ocean Sciences Section of the American Geophysical Union. He was honored by his peers in various ways, including being named a Fellow of the California Academy of Science, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Geophysical Union, and The Oceanography Society.

Richard pressed hard to accomplish things in his work life, but on the weekends he knew how to relax, usually fishing or otherwise playing on the welcoming waters of Carteret County with his family. Weekend fun often included graduate students and research techs, many of whom became extended family members.

Richard is remembered lovingly by his family as well as many friends, colleagues, and former students who express gratitude for his help along their paths. He is survived by his wife of 62 years, Elaine Kellmayer Barber of Gloucester, NC; son, Donald Barber of Bryn Mawr, PA; daughter, Stephanie Miscovich of Beaufort, NC; grandsons, Aidan Barber of Brookhaven, PA, and Keilan Barber of West Chester, PA; step-granddaughter, Morgan (and husband, Jordan) Grant of Troy, MI; sisters, Charlotte Rowe of Marion, OH, and Patricia Otten of Gloucester, NC; sister-in-law, Mary Ella Turner of Hobe Sound, FL; and many beloved nephews and nieces.

He was preceded in death by his father, Harry R. Barber; mother, Thelma Seabrook Sidur; stepfather, Robert A. Sidur; niece, Dale Otten; and nephew, Gregory Otten.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial contributions to either of two places Richard loved and called home: Duke University Marine Laboratory, 135 Duke Marine Lab Rd., Beaufort, NC 28516; and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 215 Ann St., Beaufort, NC 28516.

Family and friends may submit online condolences and remembrances at

Arrangements by Munden Funeral Home & Crematory in Morehead City, NC.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Richard “Dick” Trumpeter Barber, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Burial Rites Service

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Starts at 2:00 pm (Eastern time)

St. Paul's Episcopal Church

209 Ann Street, Beaufort, NC 28516

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