December 16, 2021

Obituary - William L. Shelton, 1939-2021

As a child, William (Bill) Lee Shelton kept animals (much to his mother’s chagrin!), raised bees, and spent many happy hours in the woods. Bill was the first in his family to go to college. He earned a B.S. and M.S. at Oklahoma State University, then earned a Ph.D. in fisheries and aquaculture at the University of Oklahoma. He was a professor at Auburn University, then the University of Oklahoma, mentoring 48 graduate students. He also spent several years training Peace Corps students, where he met his wife, Kiki Hiott, herself a Peace Corps trainer and research scientist. Bill published more than 140 research papers and he traveled to consult in fisheries or train students in at least 15 different countries. He was extremely interactive and outgoing with colleagues in the USA and abroad, and at his home lab in Oklahoma he hosted many visiting scientists from countries worldwide for research and networking.

Bill Shelton received a Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award from the US Aquaculture Society in 2019, and was active in WAS, including co-organizing a 2009 Paddlefish Symposium, serving on the Aquaculture Scientific Advisory Panel from 2003 to 2014, serving as liaison from WAS to the American Fisheries Society, and serving as organizer and session chair in aquaculture at 2004 and 2009 meetings.

Bill also was active in the American Fisheries Society, was an AFS Fellow, a 50-year Gold Member of AFS, and President of the Fish Culture Section in 2002-2003. He was editor of the Progresive Fish-Culturist and the North American Journal of Aquaculture (1995-2009), and editor of the North American Journal of Fisheries Management (1990-1992). He received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Oklahoma Chapter of AFS in 2016,

Bill’s research in fisheries and aquaculture was wide-ranging but emphasized early life stages or production of many species (gars, shads, paddlefish, sturgeons, Asian carps, catfishes, striped bass and tilapia, among others). He collaborated with scientists from all over the world, including colleagues at Kentucky State University, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife and Idaho Department of Fish and Game. For two decades, Bill collaborated with Dr. Shmuel Rothbard at Kibbutz Gan Shmuel in Israel. In 2015, Bill worked for a year at the University of South Bohemia’s Faculty of Fisheries and Protection of Waters in Vodnany, Czech Republic.

Bill’s research addressed topics ranging from sex control, sex reversal and sperm motility as potential tools in management of wild fish stocks, to development of technologies for the culture of paddlefish, including reproduction through artificial propagation, nursing of juveniles, and grow-out for commercial production, to ploidy manipulation, sperm physiology, cryopreservation and minimally invasive surgical technique, to general fishery biology, particularly reservoir and large river fisheries, with emphasis on evaluation of sampling techniques, predator/prey and growth relationships. He developed a steroid delivery technique through intra-peritoneal implants, making possible sex reversal in fish for which feeding hormone-contained diet is not an option. His collaborative experiments at Kentucky State University confirmed production of gynogenetic paddlefish. He and colleagues at Vodnany later developed a method for collecting oocytes from female paddlefish without killing them, obtained information about sperm quality and quantity, and developed technology for the storage of sperm. In 2019 he coauthored a chapter “Sex Control and Chromosome Manipulation in Cyprinidae: Common Carp and Grass Carp,” in which he summarized his longtime work with grass carp. In his last research until the time of his passing, Bill had been working with colleagues from Idaho and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife on a common carp feminization project, toward a goal of building a YY-chromosome carp.

In addition to his lifelong career in fisheries research, Bill was a veteran of the US Air Force, first as an enlisted Air Evacuation Technician, then as a pilot with the rank of Captain. He flew C-97s and C-124s across the Pacific, moving cargo in and out of Vietnam during the war. He also leaves behind many close friends and colleagues. His warmth as a person and his input to fisheries will be greatly missed!  

William J. Matthews, Edie Marsh-Matthews and Ana (Kiki) Hiott

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