For nearly 40 years, Dr. Hochberg dedicated his life to the field of science to benefit not just the Museum or Santa Barbara, but all life in this world.
“The ongoing study of the extensive collections compiled and studied by Dr. Hochberg will continue to increase our understanding of nature’s diversity,” say Dr. Henry Chaney, Director of Collections and Research at the Museum. “The Museum greatly appreciates his decades of time and effort spent developing these resources and making them accessible to students and scholars worldwide.”
Dr. Hochberg earned both his undergraduate (1965) and Ph.D. (1971) from the University of California, Santa Barbara. While in school, his fascination with marine and terrestrial animals was nourished while traveling the world and experiencing unique diving opportunities. For example in 1970, as a grad student he participated in the TEKTITE program as an Aquanaut and lived underwater for three weeks off the Virgin Islands in the Caribbean Sea.
A world-renowned expert on cephalopods, Dr. Hochberg has been actively involved in research on a diversity of marine and terrestrial mammals, in particular the taxonomy and biology of cephalopods and their parasites. He established a method for identifying closely related species of octopuses by studying the parasites that live in the kidneys, which was a great boon to world fisheries that depend on the health and populations of these animals. In 1999, Dr. Hochberg was appointed to the California Squid Scientific Research Committee to help oversee California’s squid fishery. This Committee provides scientific oversight for the development of research protocols and the preparation and review of conservation and management plans for the important local cephalopod resource: Doryteuthis opalescens (Opalescent Market Squid).
Dr. Hochberg co-founded and served as the past President of the Cephalopod International Advisory Council, a prestigious organization of scientists who provide advice on a variety of cephalopod-related issues from research to world fishing trends. He presided over the organization’s 1997 triennial meeting in Cape Town South Africa. When the Museum hosted the annual meeting of the American Malacological Union in Santa Barbara in 1998, Eric organized a major international symposium on “Cephalopods of the North Pacific Ocean” and a subsequent week-long international workshop on cephalopod taxonomy held in the Museum’s Department of Invertebrate Zoology.
In 2009, he was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award presented at the International Cephalopod Meeting in Vigi, Spain for his work relating to the study and research of cephalopodsand their biology, taxonomy, parasites, and fisheries.
Dr. Hochberg’s passion for science and nature is also expressed as an internationally recognized printmaker and artist. While at the Museum, Dr. Hochberg also developed an interest in expressing natural environments through art and began Nature Printing, a simple technique that utilizes inks or pigments to transfer images of nature to paper, cloth, or other surfaces. One of the co-founders of the Nature Printing Society, Dr. Hochberg was on a science and humanities scholarship as an artistin-residence at the Museum of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia in 1985. He has had numerous solo and group exhibitions and has lectured on nature printing throughout the U.S., Canada, and Australia. In 2010, the Museum opened the Impressions from Nature, which featured prints by Dr. Hochberg of a variety of marine life including shells, squids, octopuses and more.
Dr. Hochberg’s creative work can still be seen today in the Museum’s Marine Hall, which he helped design alongside Museum curator Paul Valentich-Scott, as well as the Giant Squid model in the Hall.
“What we wanted to focus on was the diversity of local marine animals and their presence in habitats such as kelp forests and intertidal environments,” said Dr. Hochberg of the design process.
“The Marine Hall is one of the few halls where diversity and habitats are blended together.”
Though retiring from the Museum, Dr. Hochberg will continue his work on a number of research projects. Along with Australian colleagues Drs. Mark Norman and Julian Finn, he is working on a volume for the Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome which reviews the octopods of the world. This book will provide keys for the identification of these important marine animals, as well as summarizing vital information on their distribution, biology, and the status of octopus fisheries throughout the world.
Many of the specimens featured in this book are maintained in the Invertebrate Zoology Department at the Museum, which is home to one of the major collections of cephalopods and their parasites in the world. Over the years he has conducted extensive research on the taxonomy, morphology and molecular analysis of these specimens. “We may be a small museum, but we have a big reputation internationally,” commented Dr. Hochberg.Over the course of his work at the Museum, Dr. Hochberg has named 30 new species and seven new genera, and has had a number of marine and terrestrial animals named in his honor. In addition, a new species and genus of octopus that Dr. Hochberg described in 2006 (Wunderpus photogenicus) will be included as one of the Top 100 New Species Discoveries in the first 10 years of the 21st Century by the International Institute for Species Exploration.
“Eric is a wonderful and rare human being with a remarkable range of talents. He is not only an acclaimed scientist, but also a great naturalist, an artist, an author of both scientific and popular writings, and a great mentor of young people,” said Dr. Karl Hutterer, Museum Executive Director. “His contributions to the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History have been enormous, but his impact goes far beyond the walls of our institution.”
Dr. Hochberg will also continue work at the Museum as a Curator Emeritus, as well as a mentor for current students in the Museum’s teen program “Quasars to Sea Stars.”
In celebration of his retirement, the Museum will host a private reception for Dr. Hochberg on Friday, April 27 from 5:30 – 8:00 PM in the Museum Courtyard.
For more information on Dr. Eric Hochberg and the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, please visit www.sbnature.org.