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June 13, 2018

Bigelow Lab’s new president envisions ‘significant growth’

Deborah Bronk, the new president of Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, envisions growth of 30% to 40% for East Boothbay-based nonprofit over the next few years.

"It would make us more resilient to [economic] downturns and things like that," Bronk told the Bangor Daily News, noting that the current staff is about 100 people.

Bronk assumed her new role at the nonprofit marine research institute in East Boothbay on March 1, succeeding Graham Shimmield, who held the position for nine years before he died in December 2016.

The lab's research ranges from the microscopic life at the bottom of marine food webs to large-scale ocean processes that affect the entire planet. It's also studying climate change impacts on the Gulf of Maine and Maine's lobster and aquaculture industries.

Bronk said she's starting the process of updating the lab's five-year strategic plan and deciding on a new research vessel.

In March, Bigelow Lab was awarded funding from the Maine Sea Grant College Program for a new study of kelp forests in the Gulf of Maine. The lab said reported the study is designed in part to determine which kelp species are growing best in a rapidly changing Gulf of Maine and what amount of wild harvest is sustainable.

Bronk previously was the Moses D. Nunnally Distinguished Professor of Marine Sciences and department chair at Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences. Throughout the transition to her leadership, the research institute continued to grow steadily during the last year, completing a new student residence hall and increasing research revenue by more than 30%.

"I have visited marine laboratories around the world, and I have never seen interactions between scientists that are as dynamic as those at Bigelow Laboratory," Bronk said upon her appointment in October 2017.

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