SREL mourns Michael H. Smith


SREL mourns Michael H. Smith

The late Dr. Michael H. Smith holding the C. Hart Merriam Award from the American Society of Mammalogists.

The leadership and staff of SREL are deeply saddened by the death of Michael H. Smith, former and longest-serving director of SREL. Smith died on Nov. 15.

Big Mike, as he was affectionately known, earned an undergraduate degree from San Diego State University and a doctorate from the University of Florida. He served as director of SREL from 1973 to 1999, remaining as a professor of ecology at UGA until he retired in 2002.

Smith was recognized internationally as an expert in population genetics, ecology and radioactivity in the environment. His unique expertise evaluating the effects of radiation in the ecosystem led to his role as an adviser in response to the Chernobyl nuclear reactor accident.

He authored over 350 scientific publications and mentored numerous graduate students who attained master’s and doctoral degrees. During his tenure SREL became known internationally for its expertise in ecology.

Smith was a fellow of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science and a lifetime member of the American Society of Mammalogy. He was a recipient of the society’s C. Hart Merriam Award for outstanding research contributions.

Smith is survived by his wife of 59 years, Irma; daughter Karen Smith Rotabi; son Michael Smith Jr; daughter-in-law Sharon Edelstein; son-in-law Paul Martin; grandsons Alexander, Benjamin and Ethan; and sisters Cheryll Leslie and Andrea Johnston.

Services honoring Smith’s life were held Nov. 19 in Frederick, Maryland.

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made to SREL.

Donations can be made online at under the Give tab or mailed to SREL, Attn: Beth Giddens, P O Drawer E, Aiken, SC, 29802. Checks should be written to the UGA Foundation and indicate a gift in memory of Dr. Michael H. Smith. The funds will be used to support graduate students through the Michael H. Smith Memorial Scholarship Fund.