In Remembrance of Spencer Apollonio


It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Trustee Emeritus Spencer Apollonio. Spencer loved scientific research, and he followed that passion throughout the Gulf of Maine ecosystem and Arctic Ocean. His contribution to oceanography is illustrated by the continued relevance of his work and his dedication to the pursuit of scientific knowledge until his final days.

Spencer was instrumental in the founding of Bigelow Laboratory, and he maintained a close relationship with our scientists for decades. When Drs. Charles and Clarice Yentsch heard about the closing of the National Marine Fisheries Laboratory in West Boothbay in the late 1970s, they met with Spencer, who was the commissioner of the Maine Department of Marine Resources. He helped the Yentsches establish a research institute at the site – an endeavor that would eventually become Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences.

Throughout his professional life, including during “retirement,” Spencer continued to contribute to Bigelow Laboratory. In the mid-1990s, he worked with Charlie Yentsch and Janet Campbell on an award-winning book about the Gulf of Maine. He also compiled a book on the history of Bigelow Laboratory that was published in 2019.

In the late 2000s, Spencer visited the laboratory with an unearthed collection of data on the Gulf of Maine and the Arctic, which became a trove for research. Senior Research Scientist Barney Balch incorporated much of it into his long-term study of the Gulf of Maine. Spencer’s collection also included unpublished research on Arctic algal blooms in the 1950s and 1960s, buried in paper notes and files. Senior Research Scientist Paty Matrai worked with Spencer to publish these findings in scientific journals so the invaluable historical perspective would not be lost. Most recently, Research Scientist Alex Michaud discovered Spencer’s research on ice-covered lakes. The data represent some of the first measurements of overwinter nutrients from a High Arctic lake. Alex has been working with Spencer to complete the research, which will soon be published.

We will miss Spencer’s enthusiasm and inspirational energy for bettering the planet through scientific discovery, which he pursued to his very last days. We hope we can all find the same dedication to the sharing of knowledge for the betterment of our planet.

Spencer’s obituary can be found in the Boothbay Register.

Photo courtesy of the George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives, Bowdoin College Library, Brunswick, Maine.