Ocean Enlightenment
A conversation with Edie Widder

The first reaction anyone has when witnessing the spectacular light show of marine bioluminescence is that it is just pretty damned awesome. Scientists, of course, are typically expected to be much more clinical and detached in their reactions to natural phenomena, but Edie Widder isn’t your typ...

CONTINUE READING >


About Edie Widder:
Edie_in_sub_2012

Dr Edith “Edie” Widder is a marine biologist and deep-sea explorer who is applying her expertise in oceanographic research and technical innovation to reversing the worldwide trend of marine ecosystem degradation. A specialist in bioluminescence, Dr Widder has also been a leader in helping to des...

CONTINUE READING >


Some Additional Resources:
Book - Bioluminescence: Living Lights, Lights for Living

By Thérèse Wilson & J. Woodland Hasting

Bioluminescence is everywhere on earth—most of all in the ocean, from angler fish in the depths to the flashing of dinoflagellates at the surface. Here, Thérèse Wilson and Woody Hastings explore the natural history, evolution, and biochemistry of the diverse array of organisms that emit light.

BBC Nature Wildlife - Bioluminescence

A collection of video resources on bioluminescence from the BBC.

Bioluminescence on Camera - National Geographic

For the first time, the starlight camera captures sea creatures' bioluminescent paths, and the ocean glows with light.

Book - The Bioluminescence Coloring Book

By Edie Widder

A marine science workbook, complete with glow-in-the-dark paint kit.

The Giant Squid Stalker - Slate

An article featuring Edie Widder and a stunning video of bioluminescence in action.


From Sea to Shining Sea (Commentary Excerpt)

The first reaction anyone has when witnessing the spectacular light show of marine bioluminescence is that it is just pretty damn awesome. Scientists, of course, are typically expected to be much more clinical and detached in their reactions to natural phenomena, with any personal expressions of exuberance limited to the noble joys of unlocking the profound and subtle mysteries of the world around them. The pursuit of the truth. The thrill of discovery. That sort of thing.

But Edie Widder isn’t your average scientist; and she feels no compunction whatsoever to disguise her very first thoughts when she found herself deep under water in a clunky deep-sea diving suit surrounded on all sides by beautifully glowing objects:

“All I could think was, ‘Oh wow! This is just so incredibly cool!”

Widder, however, didn’t stop there. Equipped with a PhD in neurobiology and a steely sense of logical rigor, she swiftly pushed her natural exuberance in a more concrete direction.

“But I also recognized just how much energy was involved in producing all that light. And I thought to myself: ‘This is a crazy amount of energy. This has got to be one of the most important processes in the ocean – why aren’t more people studying it?’”

So began Edie Widder’s love affair with bioluminescence – a passion that led her to become a leading specialist in the field while simultaneously developing a broad spectrum of pioneering devices: an instrument for the open ocean that the US Navy could use to minimize its bioluminescent footprint or locate that of others, an ultrasensitive deep-sea light meter for use in the deep ocean and a remotely operated deep-sea camera system known as the Eye-in-the-Sea which she used to record a never-before-seen species of squid by using her own specially designed bioluminescence lure.

But bioluminescence isn’t just brilliantly useful, it is also a fascinating scientific phenomenon in its own right that naturally steers us towards a much deeper understanding of fundamental biological processes. In fact, one of the most intriguing things I discovered during my chat with Edie is the answer to the question of just how bioluminescence could have possibly evolved in the first place...

For the full Commentary, purchase this issue from our site, or buy the eBook from Amazon.com or iBookstore, or download our app off Apple Newsstand. Each issue comes with the commentary, the full conversation, a biography of our guest, as well as references for further exploration.