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9/30/10 - Bigelow laboratory receives $9.1 million federal construction grant to build a Center for Ocean Health

WEST BOOTHBAY HARBOR, ME –The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announced today that Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences has received a $9.1 million construction grant to build the Laboratory’s Center for Ocean Health (COH) on its new Ocean Science and Education Campus in East Boothbay, Maine . COH scientists will conduct advanced research on marine microbial ecosystems and their role in maintaining the health of the oceans.

“The COH will house the core of the Laboratory’s focus on the relationship between marine microbial communities and ocean ecosystem function and resilience,” said Executive Director Dr. Graham Shimmield. “By bringing scientists together in a unified COH facility, we will develop a multi-disciplinary, multi-scale approach to ocean health that will provide improved management tools to support healthy, productive, and resilient ocean ecosystems.”

The COH will provide ecology, physiology, large volume algal growth facilities, mesocosms (experimental tanks designed to provide near-natural conditions in a controlled environment), and computing resources for ecosystem modeling and bioinformatics. The facility’s 18,200 GSF main building will be augmented by a 1,000 GSF shore facility providing research vessel pier and dock space, support for SCUBA operations, and seawater pumping facilities for laboratory and field research. Bigelow Laboratory expects to complete construction of the COH by the summer of 2012, and will contribute an additional $2.3 million towards the project.

“The COH will accelerate knowledge of the ocean’s microbial systems in ways that will enable sustainable management and stewardship of marine ecosystems,” said David Coit, Chair of Bigelow Laboratory’s Board of Trustees. “Advanced research in genomics, microbiology, and bioinformatics at the new facility will be integral to understanding global ocean health and productivity.”

The COH will be one of three complementary and interconnected research centers on the campus, along with the Bigelow Center for Blue Biotechnology (BCBB) and the Center for Ocean Biogeochemistry and Climate Change (COBCC). In addition to the three science centers, plans for the campus include an administrative wing with a public auditorium, education facilities, and housing for students and visiting scientists.

When fully completed, the Ocean Science and Education campus will provide over 70,000 square feet of laboratory, education, and administrative space, replacing the Laboratory’s current leased facilities in West Boothbay Harbor . Sixteen out of the 64 acres of the campus will be developed to environmentally sustainable, LEED Gold Standard; the rest will be preserved as wildlife habitat, wetlands, and open space, including over a mile of public walking trails. The Town of Boothbay Planning Board granted full approval of the site master plan for the campus by unanimous vote on June 16, 2010.

Both U.S. Senator Susan Collins and U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe expressed strong support for the Laboratory’s proposal to NIST for funding to build the COH. In a joint letter to NIST, the senators said that the new center “will take Bigelow’s already impressive research and experimental capabilities to a new level, linking experimental results with ecosystem modeling and bioinformatics to support the health of the ocean’s systems. Moreover, this expansion would facilitate economic growth and add new jobs that are both high-paying and in high demand.”

"On behalf of all of us at the Laboratory, I want to extend our sincere appreciation to Senator Collins and Senator Snowe for their unflagging support of this project, and for so clearly understanding the importance of building a world-class research center in Maine that will focus on the health and sustainability of the global ocean," said Shimmield.

The Laboratory received a $4.45 million award to construct the Bigelow Center for Blue Biotechnology, the first building on the Laboratory’s 64-acre waterfront campus, from the Maine Technology Asset Fund in June 2009, catalyzing plans for the new campus. The Laboratory formally broke ground for the BCBB on September 7, 2010. More than two hundred people joined U.S. Senator Susan Collins for that ceremony.

On September 18, 2010, the National Science Foundation awarded $4,975,000 to the Laboratory toward construction of the Center for Ocean Biogeochemistry and Climate Change. These funds are part of the federal economic stimulus program of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) (Public Law 111-5), which was passed by Congress in 2009.

An internationally known global ocean research center since 1974, research at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences ranges from microbial oceanography to large-scale biogeochemical processes that drive interactions between ocean ecosystems and global environmental conditions. This work has taken Bigelow scientists around the world to every ocean and the polar seas.

An agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce, NIST’s mission is “to promote U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards, and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve quality of life.”

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