Dr. Maureen Keller was a nationally and internationally renowned expert in the ecology and physiology of marine phytoplankton, the single cell algae that form the base of the food web in the ocean. She is especially known for her expertise in growing phytoplankton in culture, identifying phytoplankton species in nature, and her work on the production of sulfur compounds by algae. Her recent work on the ecology of the toxic red tide organism, Alexandrium, in the Gulf of Maine, and the brown tide in the Long Island bays has contributed greatly to the understanding of how these harmful blooms form. She participated on many research cruises, including in the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Maine, and Penobscot Bay.
Her work was funded by grants from the National Science Foundation, the Environmental Protection Agency, Sea Grant, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration , and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, among others, and resulted in over 35 published scientific papers. In 1995 and 1996 she served on the interim administrative team at Bigelow Laboratory.
In addition to her research, Dr. Keller was a leading advocate for teaching science and exposing students of all ages to the excitement of marine research. She sponsored scores of undergraduate student interns who worked in her lab. She initiated and ran the annual Bigelow BLOOM program that brings 16 high school students from each county of Maine to Bigelow for an intensive 1-week course in marine science. She organized the Maine/New Hampshire regional competition of the first National Ocean Science Bowl. Held at the University of New England in 1998, this is now an annual academic competition for high school teams in the field of oceanography. Dr. Keller was also a frequent lecturer at the University of New England were she held an adjunct faculty appointment. One of her students wrote to her "....if your mission was to nurture a love of nature, an inquisitive mind, a respect for science, a sense of great responsibility and enthusiasm for your work, then you have succeeded with me, and you will keep succeeding as long as you continue to reach out to those who craft our future..."
Dr. Keller received her Bachelors degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1976 in zoology. She received a Masters degree in oceanography from the University of Maine in 1979, and became an employee of Bigelow Laboratory that year. She received her Ph.D. in oceanography from the University of Maine in 1998.
The first Keller Scholarship was awarded in 2002. Those wishing to support this fund may send tax-deductible donations to:
The Maureen D. Keller Undergraduate Scholarship
Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences
60 Bigelow Drive P.O. Box 380
East Boothbay, Maine 04544