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June 8, 2023

Bigelow Lab will build $30M education and innovation center

large laboratory building Bigelow Laboratory Slated to be completed in spring 2025, the 25,000-square-foot addition will provide the resources needed to expand the institute’s education, collaboration and workforce development programs.

Just in time for World Ocean Day, Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences announced Thursday that it plans a $30 million expansion at its East Boothbay lab.

Slated to be completed in spring 2025, the new center for ocean education and innovation will support expanded programming and solutions-focused science. It is being funded in part by an $8 million gift from the Harold Alfond Foundation, which the institute also announced Thursday.

“Research to understand the foundation of global ocean health will always be at the core of our work,” said Deborah Bronk, president and CEO. “But our staff has doubled since we moved into our current space in 2012, and I’m excited by the growing ways we’re sharing what we learn and applying it to pressing societal problems.”

Photo / Courtesy of Bigelow Laboratory For Ocean Sciences, Reggie Huang
Deborah Bronk, president and CEO of Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences

The 25,000-square-foot addition will provide the resources needed to expand the institute’s education, collaboration and workforce development programs. Teaching labs will enable scientists to provide hands-on education to high school, undergraduate, and graduate students. They will also be used for professional courses that bring people from around the state and country to learn advanced scientific techniques.

“Bigelow Laboratory is a place that keeps Maine on the cutting-edge of ocean science,” said Greg Powell, chairman of the Harold Alfond Foundation board of trustees. “We are excited to again invest in this internationally-renowned institute, and see its discoveries and expertise continue to advance education and innovation in Maine.”

A two-story forum will provide a flexible gathering space that will be used in education programs, as well as for public events — such as Bigelow Laboratory’s popular Café Sci talks, which draw more than 1,000 people each summer. The forum will also be used for scientific conferences and workshops that will help support the laboratory’s role as a hub for thought leaders from around the world to convene on the latest discoveries and applications.

Collaborative spaces for solutions-focused science will be another significant part of the new center, which is being designed by Harriman Associates of Auburn. Bigelow Laboratory has been rapidly expanding its applied research on opportunities such as seaweed and shellfish aquaculture, carbon dioxide removal techniques and ocean forecasts powered by artificial intelligence. New lab space will allow for the growth of this work and the addition of four more research groups.

"What we’re learning is vital to understanding our planet and how our society impacts it, but that alone is not enough,” said Beth Orcutt, vice president for research. “The urgency of the global challenges we face makes it essential that we do all we can to help businesses, government leaders, and our society as a whole apply that knowledge as quickly and as effectively as possible.”

In addition to the Harold Alfond Foundation’s gift, the construction and maintenance of the new center are being supported by $12 million in federal funding and more than $9 million from individual and institutional donors.

Fundraising will continue through June 2024 to complete the resources needed for the center and the additional education, fundamental research and solutions-focused initiatives it will enable. Since 2020, Bigelow Laboratory has raised more than $61 million from a variety of partners and donors to support the initiatives set forth in its 2020 Strategic Plan, of which the new center is a critical component.

“We’re incredibly grateful to our federal representatives, donors and all those who are helping to raise these vital funds,” said Bill Burgess, chair of the board of trustees. “As the institute nears its 50th anniversary next year, this center for ocean education and innovation points to a bold vision for what Bigelow Laboratory will become during the next 50 years.”

Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences is an independent, nonprofit research institute located in East Boothbay. From the Arctic to the Antarctic, Bigelow Laboratory scientists use innovative approaches to study the foundation of global ocean health and unlock its potential to improve the future for all life on the planet. Learn more at, and join the conversation on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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