Robyn Meryl Amsel Mellon Konstantin's Obituary

Robyn Konstantin, 46; marine biologist, lecturer and volunteer

By Jack Williams STAFF WRITER (San Diego Union-Tribune. Saturday, April 24, 1999)

Robyn Konstantin was a hands-on marine biologist. Even after a shark came close to biting it off.

Mrs. Konstantin was feeding sharks at an aquatic park in Galveston, Texas, in the late 1970s while lecturing an audience on the peculiarities of underwater life.

Wearing protective garb, along with her scuba gear and mask, she felt a shark's jaw clamp onto her hand.

"The shark has surprised her by coming up from underneath," said her husband, Phil.

The injuries she suffered were minor, and she resumed her job at the former SeaArama park. But Mrs. Konstantin would find some equally challenging, and safer, alternatives in a career that ultimately forcused on whales.

She died April 6 in Sierra Blanca, Texas, of injuries suffered when the car she was driving crashed into a center divider.(1) She was 46.

Mrs. Konstantin had flown from San Diego to Sarasota, Fla., to visit her parents and was driving home in a station wagon that her mother had given her, said her husband, a California Highway Patrol officer in San Diego.

She lost control of the car, possibly after falling asleep at the wheel, around 8 p.m. Her body was pinned in the wreckage and she was pronounced dead at the scene. (2)

Familiar to San Diego television viewers, Mrs. Konstantin was a frequent source of information on whales and local marine life. She lectured at schools on her specialty and had founded her own whale-watching company, Whales4U.

Mrs. Konstantin led tourist expeditions to the gray whale winter migratory home lagoons in Mexico, her husband said.

As a volunteer coordinator for the San Diego Oceans Foundation, she was responsible for recruiting more than 140 people as part of the foundation's white sea bass holding-pen and release project.

The white sea-bass program is conducted in conjunction with the Hubbs SeaWorld Research Institute's hatchery program.

Mrs. Konstantin served on the board of directors of the San Diego chapter of the American Cetacean Society, in which her whale-tracking skills proved valuable. She was also active on the national level with the Cetacean Society.

While working in the 1980s for the National Marine Fisheries Service in San Diego, Mrs. Konstantin took part in whale census efforts along the West Coast.

"She did visual counting of whale species," her husband said. "Through that it was determined that gray whales had come back from being endangered."

Mrs. Konstantin, a Clairemont resident, was born in New York City and grew up on Long Island. She earned a bachelor's degree in marine biology at Long Island University at Southhampton, N.Y.

She began her career as a research assistant at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, concentrating on the neurology of various aquatic animals, including snails.

Before moving to San Diego in the 1980s, Mrs. Konstantin was a researcher for the Department of Wildlife in Mobile, Ala.(3) Among her assignments: testing for oyster beds and taking inventory of aquatic life in various commercial fishing areas.

Later, in San Diego, she was hired by commercial fishing boat owners to analyze their catches and compile statistics.(4)

"Robyn was an avid reader of science fiction," her husband said. "And she enjoyed collecting recordings of Grateful Dead concerts."

In addition to her husband, Mrs. Konstantin is survived by a stepdaughter, Sarah Konstantin of San Diego; her parents, Melvyn and Patricia Amsel of Sarasota, Fla; three sisters, Sheri, Laurel and Beth; and a brother, Scott Amsel of Los Angeles.

Private services are planned. Donations are suggested to the San Diego Oceans Foundation.(5)

(1) It was the guardrail on the right shoulder.
(2) She crashed just before 7pm and died after 8 pm.
(3) Dauphin Island, Alabama.
(4) She worked for the National Marine Fisheries and did this work for the government, not the boat owners.
(5) S.D.O.F., P.O.Box 90672, San Diego, CA 92169-2672

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