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For Immediate Release: June 12, 2007
Contact: Gina Hebert, MBL, 508-289-7725; ghebert@mbl.edu

Hugh Ducklow
Hugh Ducklow

Climate Change Expert Hugh Ducklow Named Director of MBL Ecosystems Center

MBL, WOODS HOLE, MA—Biscoe Island, off the Antarctic Peninsula, is one of the most rapidly warming places on the planet. And MBL Senior Scientist Hugh Ducklow is there, on the front lines of global climate change.

On May 1, 2007, Ducklow was named senior scientist and director of the Ecosystems Center at the MBL (Marine Biological Laboratory). For several months of the year, Ducklow is near Biscoe Island directing the Palmer Antarctica Long-Term Ecological Research project (LTER).

Biscoe Island
Biscoe Island, Antarctica, one of the most rapidly warming places on earth, is located about 15 miles from the Palmer Station research site off the western Antarctic Peninsula. Photo by Julian Ma

Since 1950, the average winter temperature on Biscoe Island has risen 6 degrees C (11 degrees F). “The glaciers are receding, grasses and mosses are growing. Within fifty years, there will be trees there,” Ducklow says. “The place is changing very fast. It provides us with a wonderful research opportunity to understand how ecosystems respond to climate change.”

Prior to coming to the MBL, Ducklow was Glucksman Professor of Marine Science at The College of William and Mary School of Marine Sciences and Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences (VIMS). A marine ecologist, Ducklow’s research is centered on plankton dynamics and biogeochemistry.

Ducklow predicts that, in 20-30 years, the sea ice near Palmer Station, which grows and shrinks with the seasons, will no longer be there. This will be a major “regime change,” he says, since every Antarctic ecosystem except one is marine and is keyed to sea ice. Krill, for example, tiny shrimp that are the cornerstone of the Antarctic food web, attach to the bottom of sea ice as juveniles, where they feed on ice algae and are protected from predators. “What will happen when the sea ice is no longer there? It will affect all the animals who live there. That is what we are studying,” Ducklow says.

Hugh Ducklow, right, and colleagues travel by Zodiac boat from Palmer Station to inshore sampling sites. Photo by Cara Sucher

Ducklow will be discussing his research June 29 as part of the MBL’s Friday Night Lecture Series. His talk, “The Ice is Burning: Rapid Climate and Ecosystem Change on the Antarctic Peninsula,” is at 8 p.m. in Lillie Auditorium, MBL Street, Woods Hole. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Palmer Station, established in 1990, is one of 26 LTERs nationwide funded by the National Science Foundation. “The LTERs provide very important information on what is happening to the environment over the long term,” says Dr. Gary Borisy, director and CEO of the MBL. In addition to the Palmer Station, the MBL’s Ecosystems Center operates two other LTERs – one at Toolik Lake, Alaska and one on Plum Island, Massachusetts – and is involved with a fourth, at Harvard Forest in Massachusetts.

For Ducklow, working at the MBL is “a dream come true. I’ve had longstanding collaborations with people in Woods Hole.” Dr. John Hobbie, who directed the Ecosystems Center from 1985 to 2006, “is an old friend, colleague, and role model. It was a wonderful opportunity” to succeed Hobbie, Ducklow says.

“We are thrilled to have ‘Duck’ join the MBL,” says Borisy. “His work at the Palmer Station perfectly complements current research in our Ecosystems Center. And his background in microbial biology and oceanography strengthens the MBL’s focus on developing joint expertise in microbial diversity and ecosystems.”

Ducklow received an A.B. with a concentration in History and Science from Harvard College, an A.M. in Environmental Biology from Harvard University, and. a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering from Harvard University. He is a member of numerous national and international organizations, panels, and societies and has served on a number of National Academy of Sciences panels. He chaired the Joint Global Ocean Flux Study; was a member of the scientific committee for the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme; and was an advisor to the NATO Science for Stability Project in the Black Sea.


The MBL is a leading international, independent, nonprofit institution dedicated to discovery and to improving the human condition through creative research and education in the biological, biomedical and environmental sciences. Founded in 1888 as the Marine Biological Laboratory, the MBL is the oldest private marine laboratory in the Western Hemisphere. For more information, visit www.MBL.edu