Profile: Ed and Melanie Hodgdon


Ed and Melanie Hodgdon are high school sweethearts. They have been married for almost 50 years, but their relationship with science has lasted almost as long. The couple deeply appreciates the value of the ocean and its health, and they have dedicated their lives to education and science.

“People need to ask themselves if they are creating the type of world they want to live in,” Ed said. “We have the capability to change the world, but we first have to understand it. Science is the tool for that understanding.”

Ed had an early interest in science and began studying engineering in college. However, that wasn’t enough to satisfy his inquisitive mind. He didn’t want to just build bridges and dams, he wanted to understand the deeper issues surrounding them. This led him to launch a career in physics and chemistry.

As he worked as a researcher, his curiosity never dimmed, and his passion for sharing it grew. He decided to switch his focus to education, and he spent the rest of his career teaching. At his core, he wants to stimulate others to ask questions about the world around them.

“I am extremely passionate about science, the need for people to understand things, and the need for people to relate knowledge to the real world,” Ed said. “The whole emphasis of my life is to get people to understand and want to learn.”

Melanie was also drawn toward understanding the world — but through the incredible variety of life on the planet. She remembers a high school biology project where she studied the organisms living in a puddle in her backyard to understand its microcosm.

“I wanted to observe, categorize, and look for patterns, then use that for prediction, which is science,” she said. “It’s just the way that I’m built. It’s a puzzle, and I find puzzles alluring.”

She built her career in science education, teaching in Lincoln County, Maine. She loved sharing her passion for inquiry with students and tried to foster their own sense of wonder. Interacting with nature was critical to that process, and she created a field course in the 1980s to study intertidal and wooded areas of Maine.

“You have to engage students to learn,” she said. “You can’t learn to ride a bicycle by reading a book, and you can’t understand the nature of science without engaging in it.”

Both Ed and Melanie have lived in Maine most of their lives. Longtime residents of Lincoln County, they have been supportive of Bigelow Laboratory for years. They are excited to be part of research that can be applied to solve real-world problems, and they are especially interested in the education programs that bring in students and teachers to learn about the ocean in a hands-on research environment.

“Bigelow Laboratory is working on an international level — doing important research and inventing techniques that have been adopted around the world — but its outreach work is at least as important,” Melanie said. “It brings people to live and work and breathe with scientists. That is critical because they are learning from the source.”

The couple recently made a lasting investment in that work by including Bigelow Laboratory in their estate plan. They said it’s important for them to leave a legacy of support for causes they believe in — for the benefit of Maine and the planet.

“Throughout our lives, we have tried to impart a passion for science in the classroom,” Melanie said. “It is with a sense of joy and satisfaction that we plan to enlarge our sphere of influence through Bigelow Laboratory. Giving to ocean research and outreach programs is a no-brainer. Having such a wonderful institute in our backyard is the icing on the cake.”