Miroslav Zei

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Miroslav Zei, biologist, * 25. July 1914, Auresina in Trieste, † 2. November 2006, Drniš in Croatia.

At the 50th Anniversary of the National Institute of Biology, awards and prizes were conferred for the first time. They are named after one of the founders of NIB, Prof. Dr. Miroslav Zei, a sea biologist.

Born in Auresina in Trieste, the Slovenian marine biologist started his scientific career at the Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries in Split in 1937, after completing university studies in Ljubljana. This period was very important for him and for the profession as such, because Prof. Zei started to develop a new approach to biological and ecological research of the Adriatic Sea, its vast range of fish species and efficient (sustainable) fisheries.

His research on demersal fish stocks was a pioneering step in the modern fishery biology of the Adriatic and the Mediterranean in general; the discovery sex change in picarels and some other fish species was one of his most important achievements. This was followed by a period of professorship at the Zoological Institute of the Science Faculty, later named the Biotechnical Faculty, at the University of Ljubljana, where he took over the management of the Institute and the Department upon retirement of Prof. Jovan Hadži.  He was also the first director of the Institute of Biology, the forerunner of today's National Institute of Biology, which was established with the aim of connecting biological research programmes at different faculties at the University of Ljubljana.

His extensive educational work consisted also of the summer courses of marine biology at the Institute of Marine Biology at the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts in Rovinj, where he was also a part-time director. He successfully made these courses open also to foreign students in other European universities. During this period, as the president of Ljubljana’s Society for the Exploration of the Sea and Underwater Technology, he supported the first Yugoslav expedition to the Red Sea and Ethiopia, which was one of the additional activities of university research in the field of marine biology and ecology.

This resulted in Slovenia having some reputed marine researchers, including those who later became experts at FAO and UNESCO. Prof. Zei was the first to go down this route and managed a number of projects for the development of marine fisheries in Africa within FAO. The result of this period is important work on Atlantic marine fisheries and on the biology of sardines and related species. After retiring, he moved to Portorož and took charge of the Marine Biology Station, strengthened its organization and contributed significantly towards its new building. There he also tried to establish useful fishing-biological research towards the development of mariculture. He resumed his teaching work at the University of Ljubljana and the Split Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries. After he stopped working at the Marine Biology Station, he published more scientific and expert articles and some popular-scientific books. As the consultant for terminological dictionary of the Slovenian language, which was published by the Academy, he edited all the names of Slovenian marine fish species. He died on 2 November 2006, in Drniš in Croatia.

The plaque of Prof. Dr. Miroslav Zei was designed by academic sculptor Vladimira Štóviček.