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Michael "Mike" Champ '67 January 26, 2024 11:31 AM updated: January 26, 2024 11:36 AM

Michael A. Champ 

June 27, 1944 - July 23, 2023 

Michael A. Champ, 79, an oceanographer, freshwater biologist, and environmental scientist died on July 23, 2023 at home with his family. He never recovered from a massive stroke in 2020.

Michael A. Champ grew up in Houston, Texas, and received his PhD in Biology from Texas A&M University in 1972. He was awarded a post-doctoral fellowship to conduct research on the Ross Sea in the Antarctic. Upon his return, he moved to the Washington, DC area to accept a professorship at American University. Falls Church, Virginia would become the beloved hometown for Dr. Champ, his wife, Tommie, and their three children. Dr. Champ was an initiator in conducting research on the fate, behavior, chemistry, and environmental effects of ocean-dumped municipal and industrial waste. In this regard, he was one of the pioneers of the environmental movement. In the 1970s he served as a resident scholar to the Army Corp of Engineers and at NOAA. He then went on to serve as a senior science advisor for the EPA and NSF. He was chief scientist for seven research cruises investigating ocean dumping of sulfuric acid iron waste by DuPont and sewage sludge from the city of Philadelphia. His testimony to Congress in the 1970s led to the law that banned any ocean dumping of waste or sewage.

He was awarded the Senior Queens Fellow to Australia to work on environmental problems, including those impacting the Great Barrier Reef. He played a major role at the International Maritime Organization in developing and shaping the London Ocean Dumping Convention that placed a global ban on ocean dumping.

In 1984, he was recognized by President Ronald Reagan for his contribution to the development of the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) Proclamation. He was the senior co-editor of the major reference work Organotins: Environmental Fate and Behavior. The book is a summary of over 40 years of research on the use, fate, and behavior of biocide tributyltin (TBT), an additive in marine antifouling paints. In addition, Dr. Champ was asked by the U.S. Congress to help draft and edit the Organotin Antifouling Paint Control Act of 1988. In the 1990s, funded by the Office of Naval Research of the U.S. Navy, he was a Co-PI in a group of US and Russian scientists that conducted a research study on the impact of Russian ocean-dumped nuclear wastes in the Arctic.

In 2000 and 2001, he was the Technical Advisor to the Marshall Islands Delegation for the UN International Maritime Organization Marine Environmental Protection Committee and helped the IMO draft the convention to control harmful antifouling systems on ships. The treaty entered into force in September 2008 and banned TBT use in antifouling paints worldwide. He held additional teaching and research appointments throughout the years at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Texas A&M University, University of Hawaii - Hilo, University of Maryland, and Virginia Tech.

Over the course of his career he published six books, over 400 papers and articles, and was an active member with Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society and continued consulting for various private companies.

For the last ten years he continued work centered around smaller bodies of water. However, he spent much of his time with his grandkids, walking dogs and visiting his cabin in West Virginia. Despite battling health issues for the majority of his life, he always remained optimistic, loving and a great storyteller. The only things he loved as much as protecting the ocean was Texas A&M football, soccer, fishing and his family.

Dr. Champ is survived by his wife, Tommie, of 58 years, three children (Scott, Quenton, and Amanda) and their spouses (Beth, Rebecca and Devin), six grandchildren (Asa, Vivi, Lily, Lincoln, Zach and Ada) and their dog Dolly. He will be deeply missed.

A memorial service will be held on Friday, August 25 at 3:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington at 4444 Arlington Blvd, Arlington, VA 22204. 


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