MacArthur Fellows Program

MacArthur Fellows / Meet the Class of 2006

Edith Widder


Co-Founder and Director

Ocean Research and Conservation Association

Ft. Pierce, Florida

Age: 55 at time of award

Published September 1, 2006
Image of Edith Widder

Edith Widder is a biologist and deep-sea explorer who combines expertise in oceanographic research and technological innovation with commitment to reversing the worldwide trend of marine ecosystem degradation. A specialist in bioluminescence (the light chemically produced by many ocean organisms), she has been a leader in helping to design and invent new submersible vehicles, instrumentation, and equipment to enable unobtrusive deep-sea observation of environments. Working with engineers, she has built a number of unique devices that enable scientists to see the ocean in new ways, including HIDEX, a bathyphotometer that measures how much bioluminescence there is in the oceans, and LoLAR, the most sensitive deep-sea light meter. Most recently, Widder helped to design a remotely operated camera system, known as Eye in the Sea (EITS), which, when deployed on the sea floor, automatically detects and measures the bioluminescence given off by nearby organisms. EITS has produced footage of rare sharks, jellyfish, and squid in their natural habitats. In 2005, Widder left her post at the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution to establish and lead a new organization, the Ocean Research and Conservation Association (Ocean Recon). A key effort of Ocean Recon is the development of state-of-the-art sensors and technological systems for evaluating water quality and ecosystem health. While translating complex scientific issues into engineerable solutions, Edith Widder is fostering greater understanding of ocean life as a means to better, more informed ocean stewardship.

Edith Widder received a B.A. (1973) from Tufts University and an M.A. (1977) and Ph.D. (1982) from the University of California, Santa Barbara. She was a senior scientist and director of the Bioluminescence Department at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution in Ft. Pierce, Florida (1989-2005), prior to co-founding and directing the Ocean Research and Conservation Association, also in Ft. Pierce. She has held adjunct appointments at Johns Hopkins University, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, Florida Atlantic University, Florida Institute of Technology, and Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Scientists.


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Edith Widder In the Media

"How MacArthur Geniuses Handle Their Money Windfalls"

The New York Times
Andrea Ghez, 2008 MacArthur Fellow
Edith Widder , 2006 MacArthur Fellow
Sarah Otto, 2011 MacArthur Fellow
Kyle Abraham, Sheila Nirenberg, 2013 MacArthur Fellows
Steve Coleman, 2014 MacArthur Fellow
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"What Did It Take To Find The Giant Squid?" thumbnail

"What Did It Take To Find The Giant Squid?"

NPR TED Radio Hour
Edith Widder , 2006 MacArthur Fellow
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“Here Be Dragons” thumbnail

“Here Be Dragons”

Chicago Ideas
Edith Widder , 2006 MacArthur Fellow
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“How We Found The Giant Squid” thumbnail

“How We Found The Giant Squid”

Edith Widder , 2006 MacArthur Fellow
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"Giant Squid Video Resulted From Biologist's Invented Lure" thumbnail

"Giant Squid Video Resulted From Biologist's Invented Lure"

From Los Angeles Times
Edith Widder, MacArthur Fellow, 2006
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“The Giant Squid Stalker” thumbnail

“The Giant Squid Stalker”

Edith Widder , 2006 MacArthur Fellow
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“The Beauty of Ugly” thumbnail

“The Beauty of Ugly”

Edith Widder , 2006 MacArthur Fellow
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About the Fellows Program

The MacArthur Fellows Program awards unrestricted fellowships to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction. Learn More

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