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Juniata Hosts Deep-Sea Scientist for Lecture on Ocean Ecology

(Posted November 8, 2010)

Edie Widder, a scientist specializing in bioluminescence, will speak at Juniata at 7:30 p.m., Nov. 16 on oceam pollution and ecosystem protection.

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- A nationally known scientist who received a MacArthur "genius" grant for her work on deep ocean ecosystem protection and conservation will speak at Juniata College on those issues, and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, in a talk at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 16, in Alumni Hall in the Brumbaugh Academic Center on the Juniata campus.

Edith Widder, who co-founded the Ocean Research and Conservation Association in 2005, served as a consultant for the Department of the Interior at the agency's headquarters for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in Alabama and has focused most of her recent research on developing tools to find and track pollution in the ocean. She is currently working on sensors and technological systems for evaluating water quality and ecosystem health.

The lecture is free and open to the public.

In addition to her extensive environmental research, Widder has pioneered the design and use of submersible equipment such as light meters and cameras. She developed a deepwater camera system called Eye-in-the-Sea that has produced footage of rare sharks, jellyfish and a new species of large squid. Her work with these deepwater systems has been showcased on such television shows as "Midwater Mysteries" on the Discovery Channel and "NOVA Science NOW" on PBS.

She also has made more than 250 deep sea dives and is certified to use the deep diving suit WASP as well as the untethered submersibles Deep Rover and Deep Worker.

The renowned scientist is also one of the world's top experts on bioluminescence, the light emitted chemically by ocean organisms as they move through water or are disturbed by larger objects moving through water. She was awarded the MacArthur Fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in 2006.

She has developed several major scientific devices used at great ocean depths, including HIDEX, an instrument that is the U.S. Navy standard for measuring bioluminescence and is helpful in keeping submarines from being seen from above while submerged. She also designed an ultrasensitive light meter that can measure bioluminescence and deep-welling sunlight. Her camera system, EITS, detects and measures the bioluminescence of nearby organisms.

Before founding ORCA, Widder was senior scientist and head of the bioluminescence department at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution in Fort Pierce, Fla. from 1989 to 2005. She also has taught as an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University, Florida Atlantic University and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.

She earned a bachelor's degree in 1973 in biology from Tufts University in Medford, Mass. and went on to earn a master's degree in 1977 and a doctorate in neurobiology in 1983 at the University of California-Santa Barbara.

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.