I’m very sad to inform you that Dr Stephen Sutton – who played such a seminal role with SEARRP and the Danum Valley research programme for many years – died on the 31st December in Kota Kinabalu.
Stephen had a long career as a lecturer at the University of Leeds before taking up the position of Research Coordinator of the then Royal Society South East Asia Rainforest Research Programme (SEARRP) in the late 1980’s. Stephen led SEARRP for over 10 years, during which time Danum’s position as one of the leading field research stations in the tropics was cemented – not least as a result of the network of leading tropical ecologists which Stephen encouraged to base studies at Danum (many of whom, and their former students, continue to work as part of the programme to this day). He also forged close and enduring links with many Malaysian scientists and research institutions, including Universiti Malaysia Sabah during its formative years and the Forest Research Centre at Sepilok.
Stephen had an active and highly productive retirement after leaving his role with SEARRP and continued to collaborate on many projects and initiatives that were close to his heart – including an exhaustive description of the Pyralid moths of Borneo and, most recently, the conservation of the Kinabalu Birdwing butterfly (Troides andromache). Stephen’s work with the Kinabalu Birdwing culminated in the species being declared as the State Butterfly of Sabah at the beginning of 2023; a fitting and charming closing act of a life very well lived.
From a personal perspective, I will miss Stephen greatly both as a dear friend and trusted mentor; Stephen recruited me as Senior Scientist at Danum – which was quite a leap of faith given my lack of experience, though this was rather typical of a man who nurtured the careers of numerous young scientists. Stephen’s erudite humour remained undimmed to the very last and I, along with so many others I’m sure, will remember him so very fondly and with such gratitude – not just for his passion for science and conservation, but also for his kindness, wit and generosity of spirit.
On behalf of SEARRP, I’d like to extend our deepest condolences to Stephen’s family – particularly his wife Rosalind.
SEARRP Executive Director