The University of Maine's marine laboratory on the Damariscotta River is
within six miles of the Gulf of Maine. Here, researchers from around the
world, Maine-based marine scientists, and students from UMaine and other
universities find a rich diversity of ocean organisms and habitats.
The Ira C. Darling Marine Center was donated to UMaine in 1965. Darling,
a retired Chicago insurance executive, also established three endowment
funds through the University of Maine Foundation — the Ira C. Darling
Fund; the Agatha B. Darling Professor of Oceanography, held by Larry
Mayer; and the Clare S. Darling Professor of Oceanography, held by Gary
The general endowment fund has been essential in leveraging federal
grants to build the Darling Center into a world-class marine center.
From 1992-2001, Darling Center Director Kevin Eckelbarger wrote a
different proposal each year to the National Science Foundation (NSF).
In those nine years, NSF made nine grants totaling $4 million to the
University for Darling Center capital improvements and equipment
"It's a perfect example of how effective an endowment fund can be," says
Amos Orcutt, president/CEO of the foundation.
The combination of federal and private monies brought about the
construction of state-of-the-art facilities, including a Dive and Field
Staging Building, a Flowing Seawater Laboratory, Marine Culture
Laboratory, two Flowing Seawater Classroom buildings, a dormitory/dining
hall and library. Equipment has included the latest instrumentation and
a fleet of five marine research vessels.
Today, the Darling Center is the only marine laboratory in northern New
England that is actively developing its facilities to accommodate
visiting marine scientists and students. In the last five years, 983
visiting scientists from 312 universities, 32 states and 25 countries
came to the center. Undergraduate and graduate students from UMaine and
out-of-state colleges have participated in education and research
Here, more than 25 faculty in the School of Marine Sciences do federally
and state-funded research on the world's oceans.
The nonprofit Gulf of Maine Foundation is partnered with the Darling
Center to provide K-12 education, summer scholarships for
undergraduates, lectures and public tours.
"We discovered that the more we improve the Darling Center, the more
demands there are for use," says Eckelbarger.
UMaine Today Magazine
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