Ocean Community News

Dr. Edie Widder to receive inaugural Captain Don Walsh Award for Ocean

Dr. Edie Widder to receive inaugural Captain Don Walsh Award for Ocean Exploration from the Marine Technology Society and the Society for Underwater Technology recognizing her outstanding, sustained, international contribution to the development, application, and propagation of marine technology toward the advancement of ocean exploration

The Marine Technology Society and The Society for Underwater Technology are proud to announce that Dr. Edie Widder is the inaugural recipient of the Captain Don Walsh Award for Ocean Exploration. Dr. Widder is an MTS member, MacArthur Fellow, a deep-sea explorer, and conservationist who combines expertise in oceanographic research and technological innovation with a commitment to reversing the worldwide trend of marine ecosystem degradation.

Awarded jointly by the Marine Technology Society and the Society for Underwater Technology, this esteemed award is named after American oceanographer, explorer, retired naval officer, and marine policy specialist Captain Don Walsh. Walsh and co-pilot Jacques Piccard were aboard the bathyscaph Trieste when it made its daunting record descent on January 23, 1960 into the deepest point of the world’s oceans – the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench. The award recognizes outstanding, sustained, international contribution to the development, application, and propagation of marine technology toward the advancement of ocean exploration.

“Don Walsh is one of my superheroes – right up there with Marie Curie, Jacques Cousteau, and my mother – so to be the recipient of this first ever Don Walsh Award for Ocean Exploration is a huge deal,” said Dr. Widder. “I’m incredibly grateful to MTS and SUT for this honor and for all that they do to promote the development of tools for exploring the least explored regions of our ocean planet.”

A specialist in bioluminescence (the light chemically produced by many ocean organisms), Dr. Widder has been a leader in helping to design and invent new submersible instrumentation, and equipment to enable unobtrusive deep-sea observations. Working with engineers, she has conceived of and built several unique devices that enable humans to see beneath the waves in new ways, including HIDEX, a bathyphotometer which is the U.S. Navy standard for measuring bioluminescence in the ocean; important information for keeping submarines hidden from above. Dr. Widder also built LoLAR, an ultrasensitive deep-sea light meter that measures light in the deep ocean, both dim down-welling sunlight and bioluminescence - both important determinants of animal distribution patterns. She helped found the Ocean Research & Conservation Association in 2005 - an organization dedicated to the study and protection of marine ecosystems, and the species they sustain through development of innovative technologies, science-based conservation action, and public education. In the summer of 2012 Dr. Widder, along with several other scientists, filmed the giant squid in its natural habitat for the first time ever. The historic footage aired on Curiosity on the Discovery Channel in January of 2013. Her innovative work earned her the 2018 Explorers Club Citation of Merit; she became one of just six women to earn this honor.

“MTS couldn’t be prouder to bestow the inaugural Captain Don Walsh Award For Ocean Exploration upon Dr. Edie Widder,” said Marine Technology President Zdenka Willis. “From helping to devise cutting-edge marine technologies to logging hundreds of hours exploring the depths aboard deep sea submersibles to sharing her discoveries with her peers and the global community alike, Dr. Widder is well deserving of an award named for one of the foremost pioneers in our field. We are honored to count her as a colleague and cannot wait to see where her expertise takes her next.”

“As well as recognizing outstanding individual achievement, a key objective of the Captain Don Walsh Award is to spotlight role models who will inspire early career marine technologists, scientists and engineers” said Society for Underwater Technology President Ralph Rayner. “Edie Widder is a perfect exemplar of what young members of our community can aspire to. She and Don Walsh provide an inspiration to us all.”

ECO Magazine is a marine science publication committed to bringing scientists and professionals the latest ground-breaking research, industry news, and job opportunities from around the world.

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