Scripps Scientist Mia Tegner Dies in Diving Accident

Longtime Scripps researcher Mia Tegner died Sunday in a scuba diving accident off the coast of Mission Beach. She was 53 years old. An accomplished diver and scientist, she spent her adult life associated with UCSD.

“”We knew Mia when she was a young adult just beginning her scientific endeavors,”” said Charles Kennel, director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. “”She grew to maturity with us, and spent her life at Scripps.””

Tegner, a native of Southern California, graduated from UCSD with a bachelor’s degree in biology in 1969. Five years later she earned a doctorate in marine biology from Scripps. She based her research from Scripps ever since.

Wayne Pawelek, head diving safety instructor at Scripps, had the pleasure of knowing, working and socializing with Tegner since she arrived at Scripps in 1969.

“”She lost her life doing what she truly enjoyed,”” Pawelek, said.

Tegner’s research dealt with the ecology of kelp forest communities and near-shore marine resources. She spent nearly three decades studying and protecting the Point Loma kelp beds.

Tegner’s work has helped other scientists better understand the kelp forests, and has also helped government officials to better understand the effects of urban runoff and sewage on marine life.

Her work greatly contributed to the decision by the California Department of Fish and Game to implement a moratorium on the taking of abalone from offshore Southern California.

“”She dedicated more than 25 years of work to the ecology of the kelp beds off Point Loma in San Diego, and she developed a new and deep appreciation for this delicate, undersea rain forest,”” Kennel said.

At the time of her passing, Tegner was researching the effects of El Nino and La Nina on the plants and animals of the kelp ecosystem.

In August of 2000, Tegner, along with colleagues Paul Dayton, Peter Edwards and Kristin Riser, was honored with the prestigious Cooper Ecology Award for research on the Point Loma kelp forest ecosystem.

Two years earlier, in 1998, she received a fellowship with the Pew Fellow Program in Marine Conservation to further study the effects the changing ocean has on kelp forests. In 1986 Tegner was honored with the UCSD Distinguished Alumna of the Year Award.

Tegner is survived by her husband, Eric Hanauer of San Diego, a daughter, Sandi Hanauer of Costa Mesa, her parents Oly and Allie Tegner of Palos Verdes, and a sister, Lars Palsoson of Palos Verdes.

In lieu of flowers, donations in Mia Tegner’s memory can be made to Scripps Institution of Oceanography to support kelp forest research.

For more information, the development office at Scripps can be reached at (858) 822-1865.

A memorial service for Tegner will be held at the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Friday at 4 p.m.