Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences

Ocean Life, Planet Health

Research

The mission of Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences is to understand the key processes driving ocean ecosystems, their evolution, and their fundamental relationship to life on Earth through interrelated programs in research, education, and technology transfer. Our focus ranges from microbial oceanography to the large-scale dynamics of the global ocean. Senior Research Scientists, drive innovative research programs at the Laboratory, supported by Postdoctoral Researchers and scientific staff. Learn more about our research projects in scientific publications from our scientists.

Research at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences is organized around three core themes of Blue Biotechnology, Ocean Biogeochemistry and Climate Change, and Ocean Health.

The Walter and Helen Norton Center for Blue Biotechnology (NCBB)

Although invisible to human eyes without magnification, marine microbes are the oldest, most abundant, and most diverse forms of life on the planet. One of the largest untapped biotechnological resources on Earth, they offer enormous potential for new products and medicines of direct benefit to humans and have a central role in the global cycling of critically important elements. Scientists in the Walter and Helen Norton Center for Blue Technology (NCBB) are pioneering advanced technologies that make it possible to investigate microbial life in diverse environments throughout the world's ocean, harness the potential of the ocean's microbial ecosystems to benefit society, and open a commercialization pipeline for new discoveries. The NCBB houses the Single Cell Genomics Center, the world's first microbial single cell genomics facility; the Provasoli-Guillard National Center for Marine Algae and Microbiota, containing the world's first combined collections of marine algae, bacteria, archaea, and viruses; the J.J. MacIsaac Facility for Aquatic Cytometry, a state-of-the-art flow cytometry laboratory; the Deep Biosphere Laboratory; the Geomicrobiology Laboratory; and the Industrial Collaboration Laboratory. Initial funding toward construction of the NCBB was provided by a grant from the Maine Technology Asset Fund and private contributions.

The Center for Ocean Biogeochemistry and Climate Change (COBCC)

The ocean's microbial communities affect global climate and weather patterns and are directly involved in the global carbon cycle. Microscopic marine phytoplankton generate half the oxygen that all life on planet needs to breathe. Changing climate conditions are altering the ocean's microbial populations, with direct impacts on the survival of life in the ocean. Bringing together research in ocean observing, air-sea interactions, cellular biogeochemistry, and land-sea interactions, researchers in the COBCC investigate these processes at multiple scales, from local to global, and from individual cells to entire ocean basins. By exploring the interface between atmosphere, ocean, and sediments, COBCC scientists are advancing knowledge about the role of microscopic marine life in ocean processes and climate change. Research facilities in the COBCC include the Air-Sea Interactions Laboratory, the Trace Metal Biogeochemistry Laboratory, the Phytoplankton Ecology Laboratory, the Maine Virology Laboratory, and the Ocean Observing and Optics Laboratory. Construction of the COBCC was made possible, in part, by a grant from the National Science Foundation, as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The Center for Ocean Health (COH)

With several billion living cells in every gallon of seawater, marine microbial communities completely dominate the health of ocean ecosystems. Working at the critical interface linking the ocean's smallest living particles with key ocean processes, COH research investigates the role of microbial communities in the marine food web, in global biogeochemical cycles, and in the population dynamics of harmful algal blooms and marine pathogens that impact ocean health and productivity. Combining genomics, microbiology, and bioinformatics, COH scientists are developing fundamental new research methods to assess the health of the ocean at the cellular, community, and ecosystem levels, providing the knowledge needed to address rapidly emerging environmental challenges and inform effective, sustainable management and stewardship of global ocean resources. Research facilities in the COH include the Microbial Ecology Laboratory, the Bioinformatics Laboratory, the Zooplankton Physiology and Sensory Ecology Laboratory, and the Harmful Algal Bloom Laboratory. A grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology provided major funding toward construction of the COH.