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UMaine Today Magazine


University of Maine Foundation

Boat
Photo by Linda Healy
 

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Building a world-class marine center

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 King.

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 purchases.

"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 programs.

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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