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Stark News Details

World-Renowned Biologist Edith Widder to Address Stark County College and University Students Involved in Water-Testing

Posted Jun. 4, 2012
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Internationally renowned biologist Edith Widder will speak at
Kent State Stark on June 5.

Edith Widder, Ph.D., co-founder and CEO of Ocean Research and Conservation Association (ORCA), is an internationally recognized biologist who combines expertise in research and technological innovation with a commitment to reversing the worldwide trend of water ecosystem degradation. On Tuesday, June 5, Widder will visit Kent State University at Stark to address students and faculty from Stark County colleges and universities before they embark on a collaborative water-sampling project.

Funded by the Herbert W. Hoover Foundation, the sampling project, Making the Invisible Visible: Water Quality in Stark County, will utilize ORCA’s ground-breaking Fast Assessment of Sediment Toxicity procedure to analyze Stark County’s water, complementing EPA-mandated monitoring. The students will collect baseline sediment particles from 25 sites along the Nimishillen Creek Watershed that will be scientifically analyzed for pollutants. A group of students, faculty and award-winning filmmakers will film the project, creating an environmental documentary.

Making the Invisible Visible will develop and implement a water-monitoring protocol for the county that will aid agencies and the community, while training students to effectively communicate about water quality and other environmental issues. It also will document pioneering efforts to provide new methods for water monitoring designed to protect the health of Stark County residents.

Widder will speak to attendees, including various community leaders, on several issues, such as water quality and new testing techniques for local watersheds. The invitation-only event will take place at Kent State Stark’s Campus Center, 6000 Frank Ave. NW in Jackson Township.

Led by Widder, ORCA is dedicated to protecting aquatic ecosystems and the species they sustain through the development of innovative technologies and science-based conservation action. She fosters a greater understanding of ocean life as a means to better, more informed ocean stewardship, while translating complex scientific issues into workable solutions. A specialist in bioluminescence (the light chemically produced by many ocean organisms), she is a leader in helping to design and invent new submersible instruments and equipment to enable discreet observation of deep-sea environments. Most recently, Widder helped design a remotely operated camera system, known as the Eye in the Sea (EITS). When the device is deployed on the sea floor, it automatically detects and measures the bioluminescence given off by nearby organisms. EITS has produced footage of rare sharks, jellyfish and squid in their natural habitats.

Graduating magna cum laude from Tufts University, where she received her bachelor’s degree in biology, Widder went on to earn a master’s degree in biochemistry and a doctorate in neurobiology at the University of California in Santa Barbara. A certified scientific research pilot for Atmospheric Diving Systems, she has made more than 250 dives in submersibles. Her research involving submersibles has been featured on BBC, PBS, the Discovery Channel and National Geographic television productions. In September 2006, Widder’s work with ORCA was recognized when she was awarded a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship, a five-year grant awarded to individuals who show exceptional creativity in their work and the prospect for still more in the future.