In February, Marjorie Castelletta-Gacon wrote me, saddened by the news of the departure of her old supervisor Navjot Sodhi’s departure. Marjorie was one of Sodhi’s first grad students in NUS who studied forest avifauna extinction (which my students are citing) and TA-ed his animal behaviour course.
She wrote so fondly and beautifully. With her permission, I am sharing this with all his students, friends and family, in memory of his birthday on the 19th of March when they would have been celebrating with Navjot.
“Dear old NUS friend,
I am deeply sad and I can’t believe he is gone, he was really important to me and to so many people I could see on his facebook page
I find very beautiful the tribute people have expressed to him and his loved ones and especially yours, It is important that he’ll never be forgotten.
To me he was a father-like teacher, very patient, very constructive; he was always telling me when I was too afraid to do my research: “You’ll learn, Marjorie.” I was so young (22) and I had this incredible luck to meet him and work with him and all his team in NUS.
These were wonderful years.
And he was right – I learnt everything in 4 years in Conservation Biology and most importantly I learnt Life!
After I finished my thesis, I kept in touch with him, and each time I went to Singapore I could hear his hyena-like laught for my great pleasure.
Last time I saw him, it was in 2009, he was so happy because he had spent a year in his favorite American University.
He was such a multi-talented man, and although he was a superstar of conservation biology, he remained the same man, passionate in research and teaching and devoted to his family.
It is such a huge loss to me.
After I finished my thesis, I followed Bertrand, my husband, to Geneva. We had a second child. Then I tried to find a post doc in Switzerland but I did not succeed. So I did part time teaching in high schools and private schools in Geneva. Then we had a third chid in 2008 (and Navjot told me that he hoped I’ll stop after that!) and we had a fourth kid in 2010 (I did not dare tell Navjot).
I was looking for Navjot’s research papers when I found out what happened. I am currently trying to go back to conservation biology and most precisely I have an interview at WWF Switzerland and for the memory of Navjot I will do more than my best to achieve; he was telling me he wanted me to stay in sciences.”
Marjorie remarked – “I know it is his birthday as on the 19th
it is my son’s birthday and also Darwin’s!”