Tiny organisms that live in the ocean supply more than half of the world’s oxygen (that’s every other breath you take) and support the entire marine food chain. Bigelow Laboratory is the only independent basic research institution in the world that focuses on microbial oceanography and how the ocean’s tiniest inhabitants affect global ocean processes.
Forty years ago, a 17-foot boat filled with oceanographic sampling equipment landed at the dock in West Boothbay Harbor, Maine. This was the beginning of what has evolved into a world-class research institution, employing 85 scientists and staff, and which has materially added to what is known about the global ocean, how it works, and the vital role of it tiniest inhabitants over the last 4 decades. What Bigelow Laboratory scientists are learning will be essential to our future conservation and responsible use of the ocean.
Over the past 40 years, Bigelow Laboratory researchers have helped change the way research is conducted. They havepioneered the use of satellite imagery to track ocean productivity, were the first to use flow cytometry (a tool used to count cancer cells) for marine applications, and developed fluid imaging technology that makes invisible cells visible and revolutionized what is known about the composition and abundance of marine microscopic life. They have also found ways to gain an inside look into the abundant invisible cells that comprise most of the mass in the oceans by establishing the Single Cell Genomics Center, the first of its kind in the world, which is mapping genomes of the microbial world. Researchers are also increasing understanding about how microorganisms can survive and thrive on and below the ocean seafloor, using iron and elements to grow.
Laboratory scientists are also moving into harnessing ocean resources to develop new products and applications — everything from biofuels, pharmaceuticals, to natural nutritional supplements. If history is repeated, the next 40 years at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences will bring more innovation, understanding, and solutions. To learn more, visit www.bigelow.org.
You’ll be able to hear about even more amazing science being done at the Bigelow Lab during the Maine Science Festival in March!
For more information about the Maine Science Festival, visit www.mainesciencefestival.org, and find the festival on Facebook and Twitter (@MEScienceFest).