LAKE LEELANAU – Thomas M. Burton, 71, of Lake Leelanau, professor emeritus of zoology and fisheries & wildlife at Michigan State University and a pioneer in the bioassessment of the Great Lakes wetlands, passed away on Monday, June 3, 2013.
Thomas Burton was born on Nov. 24, 1941. He attended the University of Louisiana-Monroe, where he received a bachelor of science degree in biology in 1963, and an master of science degree in biology (Ichthyology) in 1965.
Dr. Burton received a Ph.D in aquatic ecology from Cornell University in 1973, and then completed his post doctoral work in biogeochemistry at Florida State University in 1974.
Dr. Burton was a faculty member with the Department of Zoology for more than 32 years, from 1975-2007. He began his career at Michigan State University with a tenure track research position in the Institute of Water Research. He conducted research on the Water Quality Management Project and became the lead researcher on a pilot watershed study funded by the International Joint Commission through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Dr. Burton also served as chairperson of the Zoology Department and director of the Biological Science Program from 1996-2000.
Dr. Burton was an exceptional researcher and teacher, highly recognized by his peers in the aquatic sciences, and deeply appreciated by his students. His students were an ongoing source of pride and satisfaction to Dr. Burton and he followed their careers with interest.
He was also a loving husband and father, married for 27 years to Delorus, and sharing with her the pleasure of being parents to Richard and David. In 2008 the family moved from MSU and Haslett to Leelanau County, where the beautiful vistas and friendly community made for a very pleasurable five years in spite of increasing health difficulties caused by fibrosis of the lungs.
He leaves eight living brothers and sisters throughout the southern states, and many friends, in-laws, relatives, and colleagues throughout the country and the world. His professional accomplishments will continue to affect future research, and he will never be forgotten in our hearts.
A memorial service celebrating Dr. Burton’s life will be held on Sept. 21, with a time and place to be announced.
Memorials may be directed to Inland Seas Education Assoc., P.O. Box 218, Suttons Bay, MI 49682 and/or to the Leelanau Conservancy, P.O. Box 1007, Leland, MI 49653 and/or Smile Train, P.O. Box 96231, Washington D.C., 20090-6231.
Arrangements are with the Martinson Funeral Home of Suttons Bay.