MacArthur Fellows Program

Edith Widder

Oceanographer | Class of 2006

Inventing technologically innovative, unique devices for observing and collecting data from the ocean’s depths to reverse the worldwide trend of marine ecosystem degradation.

Title
Oceanographer
Affiliation
Ocean Research and Conservation Association
Location
Ft. Pierce, Florida
Age
55 at time of award

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.

News About this Fellow
September 25, 2015
"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
January 9, 2015
"What Did It Take To Find The Giant Squid?"
NPR TED Radio Hour
Edith Widder , 2006 MacArthur Fellow
October 18, 2013
“Here Be Dragons”
Chicago Ideas
Edith Widder , 2006 MacArthur Fellow
February 1, 2013
“How We Found The Giant Squid”
TED2013
Edith Widder , 2006 MacArthur Fellow
January 14, 2013
"Giant Squid Video Resulted From Biologist's Invented Lure"
From Los Angeles Times
Edith Widder, MacArthur Fellow, 2006
January 1, 2013
“The Giant Squid Stalker”
Slate
Edith Widder , 2006 MacArthur Fellow
June 22, 2011
“The Beauty of Ugly”
PBS
Edith Widder , 2006 MacArthur Fellow
View all news

Photos

Photos are owned by the MacArthur Foundation and licensed under a Creative Commons license: CC-BY.
Credit: John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

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