Profile: Anna Marie Thron


Tall trees and cool brooks shaped Anna Marie Thron’s world from an early age. Growing up on her family’s New Jersey farm, a love for the land took root deep in her heart.

"I’m still happiest outside," Thron said. "I spend time outdoors every day, and it just has to be that way."

Summers find her walking, gardening, and birdwatching from her Boothbay porch with her husband, John. Winters find her carefully trekking around Portland’s icy sidewalks, John somewhat reluctantly in tow.

It is this passion for the natural world that has driven Thron’s extensive involvement with environmental nonprofits over the last 20 years. She has given up countless hours of her retirement to serve on boards across the state. While she’s helped organizations achieve major environmental wins in Maine during that time, she has also grown increasingly concerned about the trends across the planet.

"I’m terrified," Thron said. "I think we’re ruining the planet, and we need more people to get involved in efforts to change course."

As the oceans cover most of Earth, she sees them as a big part of the work that needs to be done — and a promising source of potential solutions. For those reasons, she joined Bigelow Laboratory’s Board of Trustees in 2013.

Anna Marie and John have lived in Boothbay for about 40 years, purchasing their summer cottage only shortly after Bigelow Laboratory first opened in its original West Boothbay Harbor location. At the time, she and John were working in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where they ran a successful software company. Each summer weekend, they’d make the three-hour trip up the coast.

"We fell in love with Maine, and Boothbay was at the furthest edge of what we could drive regularly from Cambridge," Thron said. "On weekends, we’d get in the car and just barrel off."

Following her retirement about 20 years later, she began to spend all of her summers in Boothbay and dove headfirst into board service for environmental nonprofits. Much of her focus has been on local conservation, but climate change has convinced her of the global nature of the work that is needed for conservation efforts to succeed.

Over the course of her board service, Thron has seen organizations become increasingly aware of the interconnectedness of the planet and the need to take holistic approaches to address issues. This has changed the way environmental nonprofits work and highlighted the importance of partnerships to address the multifaceted and rapidly evolving issues the planet is facing.

"Many conservation groups used to focus solely on buying land to protect it," she said. "Now there’s a greater realization that if we don’t also address climate change, our lands won’t be protected no matter who owns them."

That is one of the reasons why Thron feels so strongly that research institutes like Bigelow Laboratory need to actively work with local, state, and national government officials. Until there are laws that set better limits and incentivize change, polluters are going to pollute and cars are going to guzzle. She has been particularly excited by the recent testimonies on ocean research delivered to Congress by Bigelow Laboratory’s President Deborah Bronk, as well as Senior Research Scientist Patricia Matrai.

"We need to try to do all the little things we can as individuals," Thron said, "but it’s going to take the government to get the big guys to knuckle under and change the way they do business."

Despite the challenges facing the planet, Thron says there are reasons for optimism. Increasing forest conservation, dam removal, and adoption of solar power are all sources of encouragement for her. She sees the type of changes that are needed happening all over the world, but she also knows that we need to drastically increase our rate of progress.

Thron believes that the science done at Bigelow Laboratory is providing vital insights into both global challenges and their potential solutions, which is why she is so passionate about making sure that the information gets into the hands of decision-makers — on both sides of the ballot box.

"I was really surprised by the incredible turnout at the laboratory’s Café Sci series this summer," Thron said. "John and I showed up early, and there wasn’t even a place to park. I think that’s a great sign that Bigelow’s science matters and that people are starting to pay more attention to what’s happening and what we can do about it."