Government Leaders Gather to Break Ground on Bigelow Laboratory Expansion


Governor Janet Mills, Senator Susan Collins, and other supporters gathered in East Boothbay on Oct. 12 to celebrate the groundbreaking of Bigelow Laboratory’s new center for ocean education and innovation. The 25,000-square-foot, $30 million laboratory addition will revolutionize the institute’s education and solutions-focused work for the benefit of people, ecosystems, and marine businesses in Maine and beyond.

The event brought together over 200 government and community leaders, supporters, and staff to the laboratory’s campus to begin this important transformation.

“This new center for ocean education and innovation will help expand and enhance Bigelow’s research, as well as inspire the next generation of ocean scientists,” said U.S. Senator Susan Collins. “With the 50th anniversary of the lab coming up next year, this is a wonderful way to launch that birthday celebration.”

Senator Susan Collins addreses the crowd for the Bigelow Lab's groundbreaking for their new new Ocean Education and Innovation wing

The expansion includes dedicated teaching laboratories and classrooms that will enable more students to get hands-on training with cutting-edge techniques. In addition, a multipurpose, 300-seat forum will serve as a hub for international scientific collaboration and community education. The new center also includes laboratories for green business innovation and four new research groups, while newly endowed funds will provide seed grants for exploring promising, early-stage ideas.

Bill Burgess, a current member and former chair of the Bigelow Laboratory Board of Trustees, explained that these resources will “enhance the physical and intellectual foundation of the lab” and expand the institute’s “role as a nexus of marine science activity.” Dr. Wendy Wolf, current chair of the Board of Trustees, described the groundbreaking as an “exciting inflection point for the lab to push forward our quest to understand the foundations of global ocean health.”

“When it comes to understanding the ocean and climate change, it’s all about the microbes,” said Bigelow Laboratory President and CEO Deborah Bronk. “They will determine how the ocean responds to a changing climate, and they are our greatest tool for trying to address the damage that’s been done to the ocean. That future is what this new center is all about.”

President and CEO of the Harold Alfond Foundation, Greg Powell, called out Bigelow Laboratory for its leadership, community support, and collaborative spirit, celebrating the day’s event as a “promise of great things to come.”

During the reception that followed, U.S. Senator Angus King provided pre-recorded remarks, similarly celebrating Bigelow Laboratory’s invaluable contributions to ocean sciences. “It’s a wonderful asset to Maine and, indeed, to the country, and I think this new wing will absolutely take it to a new level,” he said.

Gathering to celebrate groundbreaking for Bigelow Lab's new Ocean Education and Innovation wing

Construction and future maintenance of the new facilities are being supported by an $8 million gift from the Harold Alfond Foundation, more than $9 million from individual and institutional donors, and a $12 million federal grant through the National Institute of Standards and Technology secured by Maine congressional leaders. Fundraising efforts are still ongoing, but the new center is slated to be complete in 2025.

“The creation of the center is a success story that exemplifies Maine’s special ability to form government-nonprofit-private partnerships that make our state internationally recognized for expertise on oceans and innovative ocean technology,” said Sarah Lawrence, District Representative speaking on behalf of Congresswoman Chellie Pingree.

Consigli Construction Co., Inc. and Harriman Associates, the Maine-based architecture firm behind the project, are working to both develop these new facilities and connect them with the existing building to maximize science and education spaces. Mark Lee, Harriman Principal and CEO, described his firm’s excitement to help “realize this next phase of development” for Bigelow Laboratory. Dave Thomas, Project Executive for Consigli, similarly celebrated the achievement, calling the new facilities a “catalyst for Maine and our economy.”

“The expertise you share here and the discoveries your researchers have made are more important now than ever,” said Governor Janet Mills, highlighting the role of Bigelow Laboratory in building a “resilient blue economy” for Maine. “Your research will help humanity chart a new course for the health of our planet.”