Oceanography professor selected to deliver Rachel Carson Lecture

A prominent University of Maine oceanographer will deliver a lecture named in honor of her inspiration, pioneer marine biologist Rachel Carson, at the American Geophysical Union fall meeting in December in San Francisco.

School of Marine Sciences Professor Mary Jane Perry’s address is titled “The Subpolar North Atlantic Spring Bloom – What Did We Learn from the NAB 2008 Autonomous Experiment?”

The subpolar North Atlantic bloom, Perry says, is one of the most remarkable features on the planet, with an almost explosive “greening” of the oceans each spring. She and others conducted a comprehensive, integrated measurement of the bloom using a float, gliders, ships, satellite observations and analyses from models.

Mary Jane PerryThe person selected to give the annual Rachel Carson Lecture is a “female scientist who exemplifies Rachel Carson’s work with cutting-edge ocean science, especially science relevant to societal concerns.”

Perry was starting high school when Carson, an ecologist who wrote about environmental impacts of fertilizers and pesticides, published “Silent Spring.”

“At the time, relatively few women were encouraged to become scientists, or to criticize the establishment,” says Perry.

“Ms. Carson defied conventional norms, studying the oceans, challenging the impacts of humans on ecosystems, and remaining strong under sharp criticism. She was an inspiration, showing that I could chart my own course and open new avenues of research.”

Which Perry has done.

Perry is a “pioneering collaborator” for the Centers for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence (COSEE) with its Scientist Making an Impact project — the North Atlantic Bloom Webinar Series.

In addition, Perry, who was interim director of the Darling Marine Center from 2013 to 2015, has received two Special Creativity Awards from the National Science Foundation for her earlier work with underwater autonomous platforms (floats and gliders) that opened up a new way to study the oceans.

In 2014, the University of Maine Alumni Association presented her with the Distinguished Maine Professor award in recognition of outstanding achievement in the university’s mission of teaching, research and public service.

“We are very proud of Professor Perry and her significant contributions to ocean science and education,” says Heather Leslie, director of the UMaine Darling Marine Center.

“She is a scientist true to Rachel Carson’s legacy: passionate, generous and uncompromising in her search for scientific truth. We are very fortunate that she calls Maine and the Darling Marine Center home.”

About 24,000 people are expected to attend the 48th AGU fall meeting Dec. 14–18. During more than 1,700 sessions, scientists will present research, learn about discoveries and challenges and network.

Perry’s lecture is associated with the AGU’s 6,000 member Ocean Sciences Section. Founded in 1920, it’s charged with “exploring three fourths of the planet.” AGU’s  purpose “is to promote discovery in Earth and space science for the benefit of humanity.”

Lynn Talley, president of the AGU Ocean Sciences, told Perry in a congratulatory letter that many excellent nominees were considered this year.

“But the Awards Committee, chaired by Jim Murray, recognized the major influence of your interdisciplinary work on phytoplankton, their interactions with upper ocean physics and their role in ocean biogeochemistry using multiple approaches, and your leadership in building scientific programs, in mentoring, and in communications,” Talley wrote.

Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777