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Dr N.K. Panikkar was the founder director of NIO. He served from 1966 to 1973. Prior to that he had led the Indian programme of the International Indian Ocean Expedition. Dr. Panikkar was trained in Crustacean physiology and marine fisheries, but he promoted all branches of marine sciences and practiced the multi-disciplinary approach. Dr. Panikkar was a great institution builder. He was responsible for establishing the Indian Ocean Biological Centre during the IIOE jointly set up by CSIR and UNESCO at Cochin, for sorting zooplankton collections made by 25 ships. Oceanography in India made huge strides under his dynamic leadership
Dr. S.Z. Qasim succeeded Dr. Panikkar as the Director in 1974 and steered the Institute until 1981. Prior to that he had been the Assistant Director of the Indian programme of the IIOE and the Director of Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Cochin. Dr. Qasim made pioneering contributions in biological oceanography and fisheries. He was the first to promote aquaculture in India, and introduced the technology of pearl culture. As Director NIO, and later as the Secretary to the Government in the Departments of Environment and Ocean Development, Dr. Qasim was responsible for rapid expansion of infrastructure and facilities for marine and polar research. Dr. Qasim led the first expedition to explore deep sea polymetallic nodules in the Indian Ocean as well as the first Indian scientific expedition to Antarctica.
Dr. V.V.R. Varadachari briefly served as an acting Director of NIO in 1973-74 and later as a regular Director from 1981 to 1985. He was the leading physical oceanographer in the country and worked actively towards the overall growth of oceanography at the national level. The Institute grew rapidly under his leadership. In fact most of the senior researchers in the Institute today were recruited during his tenure as the Director.
Dr. H.N. Siddique joined NIO as an Assistant Director and Head of Geological Oceanography Division in 1973 and became the Director of the Institute in 1985. A marine geologist by training, Dr. Siddiquie initiated marine mineral exploration in NIO, focusing first on placer deposits in shallow waters and later on polymetallic nodules in the deep sea. He mentored a very large number of youngsters many of whom are now authorities on various aspects of Geological Oceanography of the Indian Ocean. The PMN project initiated by him became a flagship project of NIO and later of the Department of Ocean Development leading to India’s recognition as a Pioneer Investor by the International Seabed Authority. Unfortunately, he passed away very early but gave a new direction to NIO despite his brief tenure of less than 2 years.
Dr. B.N. Desai took over as the Director of NIO in 1986 and served until 1994. Having participated in IIOE previously, Dr. Desai has been associated with NIO since its very inception. Before becoming Director, he was the Scientist-in-Charge of NIO’s regional centre at Mumbai for many years. Dr. Desai is a benthic ecologist but he initiated studies of marine pollution carrying out a very large number of projects for public and private sector organizations. His tenure as the director was distinguished by rapid expansion of international collaboration particularly with groups from the USA and Germany. The Institute’s scientific output greatly improved both in terms of quality and quantity under his dynamic leadership.
Dr. Ehrlich Desa director of NIO during 1994-2003 is another institution builder and a man of great vision. He is credited with redefining the institute’s mission, modernization of research facilities and communication, improving its international visibility and striving for excellence in terms of reaching out to society and industry. He coordinated efforts of both science and engineering groups in the indigenization of instrumentation for oceanographic research at NIO. He left NIO in 2003 to take up a position with IOC Paris, and is still serving as a Distinguished Scientist with CSIR.
Dr. M.D. Zindge led the Institute briefly during 2003-2004. He is excellent chemist who decided to pursue and promote marine environmental impact assessment in NIO. Under his leadership the Regional Centre of NIO at Mumbai became the leading centre in the country for providing services to industry and in research on the Indian estuarine and coastal regions. He coordinated more than 250 such projects until he superannuated in June 2007. Soon thereafter he joined the Essar Group as Advisor on environment-related issues with respect to ports, power plants, steel complexes and refinery. At present he is the NABET accredited EIA coordinator empanelled with Ultra Tech, Mumbai and ABC Techno Labs India Private Limited, Chennai.
Dr. S.R. Shetye served as director of NIO from 2004 to 2012. Before that he headed the Physical Oceanography Division for many years. He has immensely contributed toward our present understanding of physical oceanography of the Northern Indian Ocean, especially coastal and estuarine circulation and ocean-atmosphere interaction. His tenure was marked by an increase in productivity of the institute; enhancement of its infrastructure, including addition of a research vessel; rapid growth and involvement of institute in ocean science education including opening of the school of oceanography of the CSIR’s Academy of Scientific and Innovation Research
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