The ocean gives our planet life. Despite all it does for us, we still know so little about it. It remains largely unexplored and deeply mysterious, brimming with unknown life and untapped potential. 

Perhaps nowhere better exemplifies this than the deep sea. As the consequences of climate change mount and emerging industries look to the potential resources of this enigmatic region, research is urgently needed.

From phytoplankton in sunlight surface waters to microbes in darkness beneath the seafloor, Bigelow Laboratory scientists work around the world to make discoveries and create solutions. I hope you enjoy this snapshot of some of the ways our bold ocean science has made an impact during the last year.

Image Image

Deborah Bronk, PhD, President and CEO


Photo: Ocean Exploration Trust, NOAA Ocean Exploration, NOAA ONMS


The seafloor is a trove of potential discoveries and resources, but it remains largely unexplored. It is also home to sensitive organisms that play critical ecological roles and offer valuable insights. This year, our researchers launched an international effort to better understand the impacts of emerging industries on these environments. Their findings will guide use of this important frontier.

The tenacity of life holds key insights into overcoming environmental challenges. This year, our scientists revealed how some species of photosynthetic algae lived through the last mass extinction event and the resulting months of darkness. This discovery helps illuminate their unrecognized connections to global processes and raises fundamental questions about their role in the ocean.

Even on a microscopic level, the past can illuminate our future. Research led by Bigelow Laboratory revealed that a group of microbes have been at an evolutionary standstill for millions of years. The discovery may have significant implications for biotechnology applications and even how scientists understand microbial evolution.

Photo:  Colby College


As the Earth warms and its population grows, pressure is mounting to optimize food production and decrease its impact on the planet. Our scientists are leading teams across the Northeast to develop seaweed-based dietary supplements to reduce methane emissions from cattle and improve the environmental and economic sustainability of dairy production.

North Atlantic right whales play a vital ecological role but are some of the most endangered animals on the planet. Our researchers shed light this year on future whale habitats in the rapidly warming Gulf of Maine. Their work will aid proactive conservation and management efforts to restore the whales’ population.

Plankton are some of the most numerous and important organisms in the ocean. The balance of chemical elements inside them shapes food webs and global carbon cycles. This year, our researchers discovered that processes in the subsurface ocean control these ratios. This understanding will allow scientists to better predict how oceans will respond to climate change.

Photo:  Rene Francolini


All organisms leave genetic traces of their presence, and this environmental DNA can be used to help manage and care for aquatic ecosystems. Our scientists are currently helping lead a statewide effort to pioneer the technology needed to turn this DNA into discoveries about key organisms and their responses to environmental changes.

Satellites, sensors, and genomic sequencing flood scientists with an increasing amount of information each day. Effectively utilizing this “big data” is the next major opportunity for ocean science. This year, we launched a new center to use artificial intelligence and other cutting-edge approaches to create data-driven forecasts that help people use and care for the ocean.

The relationship between a particular salamander and an alga has the surprising potential to unlock new medical solutions. Our researchers worked this year to understand the connections between the organisms and the effects they have on each other. The results could lead to innovative drugs that regulate human immune systems and tissue repair.


Bigelow Laboratory is an independent, nonprofit institute. Our impact is only possible with the help of a generous community. They share our passion for the ocean and our optimism about its boundless potential. They advise us, inspire us, and provide the philanthropic support that powers our work.

We are immensely grateful to these Council members, whose exceptional generosity has advanced our mission during the last year.

  • Anonymous (11)
  • Howard Adams
  • The Justin & Rachael Alfond Fund at the Maine Community Foundation
  • Mariann and Jonathan Bigelow
  • Stewart and Nancy Bither
  • Pete and Ann Bixler
  • Blue Dot Foundation
  • Joe and Sheri Boulos
  • Louise Bowditch*
  • Dr. Deborah A. Bronk
  • Alexander and Anne Buck
  • Bill and Barbara Burgess
  • Gena Canning
  • Donna Lee Cheney*^
  • H. Lawrence Clark
  • Consigli Construction Co., Inc.
  • Patricia and Thomas Cotter
  • Holly and Rory Cowan
  • The Shelby Cullom Davis Charitable Fund, Inc.
  • Andrew and Kathryn Davis
  • Chip and Nan Davison
  • First National Bank
  • Marion T. Flores
  • Christopher and Jane Flower*
  • Kristina Gjerde and Adam de Sola Pool
  • Jon and Sue Greenlee
  • H.M. Payson
  • Randall and Mary Hack
  • Ina and Lewis Heafitz
  • Robert and Margery Healing*
  • John and Mary Jo Heyl
  • The Hildreth Family
  • Edward and Melanie Hodgdon*
  • Marion and Mark Howard
  • James L. Jaeger
  • Randall and Kimberly Jeffery
  • Sarah Jeffords
  • Russell and Mary Jeppesen
  • Thomas and Joanna Kearns
  • Jane C. MacElree
  • Will and Patsy Mackenzie
  • Arthur and Elizabeth Martinez
  • Dr. Mark Mason
  • Clement and Linda McGillicuddy
  • Hans and Julia Merck Utsch
  • Dyke Messler and Rickey Celentano
  • Richard and Eleanor Morrell
  • The Muir Family
  • David and Elly Newbower
  • Chris and Jim Newton
  • Helen Norton
  • Dr. Beth N. Orcutt*
  • David and Mary Otto
  • Herbert and Harriet Paris
  • Estate of Eileen Parris*
  • JoAnne Platt
  • Dwight and Kirsten Poler
  • Abby Pratt
  • Dana and Martha Robes
  • Ronald Ross and Frederick Kraeuter*
  • Louis and Honor Sage*
  • Schacknow Family Foundation, Inc.
  • Catherine and Shaesby Scott
  • Gary Shaw and Susan Steele
  • Chet and Evelyn Shuman
  • Estate of Wickham Skinner*
  • The Snider Foundation
  • Lindy Snider
  • Mary M. Spencer
  • Barbara Sweet
  • Paul and Chandler Tagliabue
  • Susie and Marty Tendler
  • Anna Marie and John E. Thron
  • Peter P. Twining
  • Palmer Walbridge Foundation
  • Estelle Weedon
  • William F. Whitman
  • Wendy Wolf and Mary Neal*
  • Philip Yasinski and Janet Reingold*

    Deceased donors are noted with a caret (^). Those who have named Bigelow Laboratory in their estate plans are noted with an asterisk (*).


These charts pertain to our 2021 fiscal year – July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021. You can view our audited financial report at