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On a foggy June morning, a boat full of passengers pulled alongside the dock at Santa Rosa Island. The Havasi Wilderness Foundation joined students, family, and friends of Dr. Cause Hanna, founding Director of the Santa Rosa Island Research Station, for the unveiling of a mural painted by Cal-State Channel Islands students in his honor. 

Image from a GoFundMe created for the Hanna family. https://www.gofundme.com/CauseHannaFund

Few people live their life with as much passion and captivation as Dr. Cause Hanna. In his short existence, he inspired his students and fellow researchers to consider the world that exists outside of themselves— to see that humans, animals, trees, and plants are part of a single, interconnected system. As a founder of the Santa Rosa Island Research Station, Hanna worked alongside Cal-State Channel Islands and the National Park Service to host undergraduate and graduate-level researchers with an interest in environmental studies.

The dock at Santa Rosa Island

Though I only met Cause twice, I remember his infectious smile and enigmatic personality quite clearly and can recall being moved by his enthusiasm for conservation and care of the planet’s limited resources.  In August 2017, shortly after my last visit to the island, I learned that Cause had lost his battle with a very rare and aggressive form of germ cell cancer at age 35.   In the weeks following his passing, one could see just how great an impact Cause had on the people in his life, as messages of grief and support for his family flooded the comments section of the Santa Rosa Island Research Station’s social media site. Students and collaborators remembered Cause Hanna as a committed researcher and teacher and a loving husband and father to his wife, Tracy and his two young girls,  Solstice and Be. In September 2017, Tracy posted the following emotional tribute to her husband’s life on Youtube:

The mural was completed as part of a Capstone project by CSUCI students Emma Akmakdjian, Katie Bradford, Bobi Bosson, Annmarie Newberg, and Matthew Fry. During the memorial, the four students who could be in attendance introduced a video (Click here to watch the video) about their project and gave short speeches expressing how they felt working to honor Cause’s memory. As a keepsake of this event, each attendee received a tote bag containing a special Art Capstone designed T-shirt with Cause’s name and a logo as well as three different Art Capstone stickers.

Cause’s Wife Tracy and Daughters Be and Solstice stand next to his mural.

Student artists who posed with their professor to introduce their mural

HWF founder, Marilyn Fordney expressed, “Cause is sorely missed by everyone and it seems unfair that someone so wonderful was taken so early in life”.  She recalls that many were in tears as one of Cause’s relatives stood to give a speech about Cause’s life and dedication to his work.    Today, his vibrant spirit and enthusiasm for lasting change can still be felt in the halls of the Santa Rosa Island Research Station. Though Hanna is no longer with us, his legacy lives on through his children and in the many lessons he shared with anyone who was willing to listen.

Thank you to Grace Robinson from CSUCI for hosting the Havasi Wilderness Foundation and for making us feel welcome and comfortable during this excursion to Santa Rosa Island. We wish to express our condolences to his family members, all those that worked with Cause, and especially to Tracy, Solstice and Be.

Marilyn Fordney at the Santa Rosa Research Station

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