I’ll remember last Friday for the rest of my life. When our common friend Jeff told me the terrible news I could hardly understand him. The sudden and absurd disappearance of a dear, irreplaceable, friend, the most enthusiastic and energetic person I’ve ever met and one of the most involved, bright and hard-worker ecologist of his generation, has changed somehow my conception of life. Life seems a bit more absurd now.
Laurent and I met the first time in Berkeley; he was actually responsible of my arrival in the biometlab. He used to remind me that he actually choose my CV because the other’s were very bad, no because mine was good, probably trying to keep my ego at the right level. Or probably was true. Even if the guy meant to keep the ego of a young scientist under control, he was always, or almost always, able to face challenges with his good sense of humor, very particular, very Laurent. Laurent has a big presence in all the memories I have from this period of my life. I could hardly imagine California without remembering him. We worked together, we laugh, we had party, we fight….but even if we had our personal problems at some point, we were actually able to get over them and continue our friendship and scientific collaboration.
I spent a couple of days with Laurent and Leyla a month ago in Montpellier.
Laurent and I had some articles to discuss and some ideas for future articles.
He showed me the huge rain-exclusion roof he and the team built and installed in the experimental site of the Dream-Team (Puechabon). He was really proud of his exclusion experiment and took his time to explain me everything, also how much energy he and the people of the team invested on the design and construction of this, the largest rain-exclusion roofs I’ve ever seen. He told me his idea of the roof begun to take shape in some conversations we had in an Ameriflux meeting in Boulder, a couple of years ago. I don’t know at which extent I really contributed to this idea, but nonetheless I felt proud that he, such a bright guy, would take my opinions and thoughts into account. At the moment he was actually working on writing papers with the data obtained from the last year water exclusions. He shared with me some of the results obtained so far, how these holm-oaks were able to avoid the water stress. Hopefully his students or colleagues will at some point be able to take over his ideas and ecological vision so we all will benefit from his effort. I am sure he would be happy of that.
We spent some good scientific conversations. He was continuously, almost obsessively, updating his knowledge with new literature in his field. He read a lot before he started writing a paper. At the moment he did a lot of his reading also on ecology and ecological theories and informed me about this “hierarchical theory” he was really interested in, thinking on further developing a theory that at the moment was only this, theoretical. Actually he sounded to me a bit cryptic at that point. I remember I thought I would read a bit about this theory before I try and get some more info of what was in his mind. If I have to describe our scientific relation with an ecological term I would say it was a “facultative mutualism”.
One thing that struck me from Laurent was that even if he had the position to delegate field work, he was still doing lot of it on his own....I ask him why? why don't you send somebody to measure pre-dawn water potential in the early morning? I think he just liked a lot to go to the field, spend time in the woods, taking a lot of pleasure of his job. He really loved what he was doing. He was a hard-worker, he always complained I was a lacy guy....probably true, but actually he sometimes made me kind of nervous with his energy and his willingness to work.
I miss you dude, lot of people miss you.