Science Center Scrapbook
In celebration of our 150th Anniversary, we share the unsung heroes, key places and special events that have helped shape the legacy of the Northeast Fisheries Science Center.
Surveying Plankton from the Container Ship Oleander
In 1971, the 389-foot container ship Oleander began towing a Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR) on its monthly transit between Port Elizabeth, New Jersey, and Hamilton, Bermuda. The route or transect crossed four separate hydrographic regimes: the continental shelf, the Slope Sea, the Gulf Stream and the northwest Sargasso Sea. It towed the recorder as part of the NOAA Ship of Opportunity Program.
The CPR was towed at 10 meters (about 33 feet) deep while the vessel traveled at its full cruising speed. It collected plankton along the route on a roll of silk gauze. In addition to CPR tows, other instruments were added in subsequent years. All these sensors allowed the Oleander to monitor the health of the oceans and record any changes.
The center’s Narragansett Laboratory organized and ran the CPR survey program until 2013. Center staff often rode the Oleander on the transits. In addition to the New York to Bermuda transect, the lab also conducted a second CPR survey across the Gulf of Maine between Boston and Halifax with other cooperating commercial vessels in the NOAA Ship of Opportunity program. That route started in 1961 and was conducted by the Narragansett Lab from 1974 to 2011. When the center’s CPR program ended in 2013, the New York/New Jersey to Bermuda route continued until 2017 with support from the CPR Survey program in England.
In 2021, the Gulf of Maine CPR plankton survey was resumed with funding from NOAA Fisheries through 2024. The transect is now managed by the Marine Biological Association in Plymouth, England, which manages merchant vessel-based plankton surveys around the world. In 2022 the Mid-Atlantic Bight transect was added with funding from NOAA, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, and the Marine Biological Association.
These CPR surveys are the longest-running plankton time–series in the northwest Atlantic Ocean.
R/V Victor Loosanoff
The NOAA R/V Victor Loosanoff primarily supports aquaculture and environmental research at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center’s Milford Laboratory in Connecticut. The 49-foot coastal buoy tender was transferred to NOAA from the U.S. Coast Guard in 2001. It was converted to an inshore, fisheries, and oceanographic research vessel in 2002. Captain Robert Alix oversaw conversion from buoy tender to research vessel, adding winches and a net reel for trawling operations.
Built in 1994, the twin-engine vessel is well suited for its research mission. The climate-controlled pilothouse provides complete control of the vessel, including hydraulics, with excellent visibility. The galley area below deck was converted to laboratory space. Named in honor of Milford’s first Director Victor Loosanoff, the vessel replaced the wooden R/V Shang Wheeler, which had served as the laboratory’s research vessel for over 50 years.
Following the retirement of Captain Alix in 2017, vessel operations were supported by the NOAA Corps. The first officer assigned to Milford was LT Erick Estela. The R/V Victor Loosanoff provides a research platform for scientific field sampling in Long Island Sound. That includes trawling, water sample collection, sediment grabs, diving operations, and gear deployments for Milford Lab’s GoPro Aquaculture Project.
NOAA Teachers at Sea Bring Energy and Curiosity to Fisheries Cruises
When Barbara Mosher boarded the NOAA vessel Oregon II in 1990 to participate in an Atlantic scallop survey, the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program was born.
Since then, many teachers have served aboard NOAA ships from ports around the United States. Many have sailed aboard Northeast Fisheries Science Center vessels. They have helped NOAA scientists conduct surveys of the ocean realm, and brought their experiences to their classrooms through blogs, journals, and podcasts.
In some cases, their students have been directly involved, following the real-time progress of drifter buoys their teachers launched during the surveys. Other students have decorated Styrofoam coffee cups their teachers took out to sea. Submerged to depths of as much as 1,600 feet during deep ocean water casts, they shrank to a fraction of their former size. They serve as vivid reminders of the great pressures encountered by the instrumentation far below the surface. Scientists use these instruments to sample to gather data on water temperatures and salinities.
At the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, many teachers have joined our bottom trawl surveys and ecosystem monitoring surveys. They work with scientists from a variety of disciplines, assisting with data and sample collection while simultaneously recording their experiences for future classroom lessons ashore. They also monitor instrumentation, deploy buoys and nets, collect seawater samples, and assist with seabird and marine mammal observations.
Always an enthusiastic group, the teachers bring an element of energy and curiosity to the cruise. They interview scientists and crew about their work and roles aboard the vessels, and have even dressed in costumes! Several resembled some of the planktonic creatures captured in our nets, and were used in lesson plans that will both educate and engage their students back home!
Katharine Jeannette Bush 1855-1937
Katharine Bush was the first woman to receive a Ph.D. in the sciences from Yale University in 1901. She was 45. Bush studied zoology and worked for more than 20 years as an assistant to Addison E. Verrill, a long-time professor of zoology at Yale University. Verrill also served as assistant to Spencer Baird at the U.S. Fish Commission, where he was in charge of marine invertebrate investigations.
Bush studied mollusks and echinoderms—starfish, sea urchins, and brittlestars—as a sorter at the fish commission’s lab in Woods Hole from 1881 to 1888. She also served as assistant in the zoological museum at Yale from 1879 to 1913. She helped Verrill edit the 1890 edition of Webster’s dictionary, and collaborated with him on several important reviews of Atlantic coastal shallow and deepwater mollusks.
Born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, she was educated in public and private schools in New Haven, Connecticut. Bush's doctoral dissertation on polychaetes described three new genera and 16 new species collected by the Harriman Alaska Expedition of 1899. It was published in 1905. It speaks to the role of women in science at that time, as Bush was not a member of the expedition. The polychaetes she studied were collected primarily by her brother-in-law, Wesley R. Coe, a faculty member at Yale.
During her 30-year career, Bush published 19 research articles and monographs, an enduring scientific achievement matched by few women of her era. She was a member of the American Society of Naturalists and the American Society of Zoologists. Sixteen species are named for Bush, and 20 species were described by her or jointly by Verrill and Bush.
One of many female employees of the Fish Commission, Bush was one of the two 19th-century women who achieved research careers in a field where women were not common. The other was Mary Jane Rathbun, who also worked at the Fish Commission in Woods Hole. Rathbun became a world expert in crabs and crab taxonomy.
Narragansett Laboratory's Wall of Fish
Anyone who has visited the Narragansett Laboratory and ventured into the conference room just off the lobby has seen the fish. A wall of fish, many of them sharks, to be exact. It’s something you don’t forget!
The fiberglass reproductions of various shark species, bluefin tuna, marlin, and sailfish cover one wall. Most have a small sign below giving the common and species name. Some are whole fish, others are a head or a tail.
Jerry Prezioso, an oceanographer at the lab, says the fish have been displayed in the conference room for years. He has worked at the lab since the 1970s, and notes the wall of fish seems appropriate given the building’s history. Originally built in 1966 as part of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Sportfish and Wildlife, the lab was transferred to NOAA Fisheries in 1970.
Where they came from is unclear. Some believe John “Jack” Casey, who headed the Apex Predators Program at the lab for many years, donated a few. Others were donated by a local dentist who caught a few of them on fishing trips and wanted to pass them on.
The large head of a great white and the tail of a blue tuna stand out. So do the colorful sailfish and striped marlin, and the scalloped hammerhead with its unique head shape.
But what may be the most popular item is a set of tiger shark jaws mounted on a board painted with an underwater theme. When put on a stand, it is used as a photo opportunity at outreach functions. Students, and more than a few adults, will line up for the chance to be photographed with their head inside a jaw full of big teeth!
Did You Know That Fisheries Once Had Its Own Flags?
The federal fisheries service and the Commissioner of Fish and Fisheries once had their own flags. While the date they were created and by whom is unknown, the flags were in service from the 1870s to 1940. The U.S. Commissioner of Fish and Fisheries oversaw the U.S. Fish Commission (1871–1903) and the successor agency the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries (1903– 1940).
Encyclopedia articles mention the two flags, which apparently were no longer in use after 1940. That’s when the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries was transferred to the Department of the Interior and became part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the position of Commissioner of Fish and Fisheries no longer existed.
The original U.S. Fish Commission was founded in 1871 with Spencer Baird as its first Commissioner. It was administratively affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution until January 1888, when it became an independent agency of the federal government. In 1903 the Department of Commerce and Labor was created. The U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries and the Office of the Commissioner were transferred to that new department and renamed the Bureau of Fisheries.
More reorganizations followed. In 1913 the Department of Commerce and Labor were separated into two departments. The Bureau of Fisheries remained in Commerce until 1940. It was transferred along with the Department of Agriculture‘s Bureau of Biological Survey to the Department of the Interior as part of the new Fish and Wildlife Service.
The two bureaus were separated again in 1956. The Bureau of Fisheries was renamed the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries and the Biological Survey renamed the Bureau of Sports Fisheries and Wildlife. The final reorganization occurred in 1970, when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was created. The Bureau of Commercial Fisheries was transferred from the Department of the Interior to NOAA and renamed the National Marine Fisheries Service, commonly called NOAA Fisheries today.
Addison Emery Verrill 1839-1926
Born in Greenwood, Maine, A.E. Verrill had a lifelong interest in natural history and was an avid collector. He served as an assistant under Louis Agassiz at Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology during his junior and senior years at Harvard and for several years after graduation in 1862. Zoology was beginning to be recognized as one of the sciences at that time, and Yale was looking for someone to teach it. Agassiz suggested Verrill, who was 25 years old. Verrill accepted the position at Yale’s Sheffield Scientific School as its first professor of zoology. He held the position for 43 years until his retirement in 1907.
Verrill met Spencer Baird on an 1861 trip to the Smithsonian Institution to obtain specimens for Harvard’s museum. The two became friends. When Baird was named the first U.S. Fish Commissioner in 1871, he started the first comprehensive surveys of the waters off the New England coast. Verrill was asked to lead the scientific investigations as Baird’s assistant. He held that role until Baird’s death in 1887. During that time, more than 3,000 Fish Commission dredge hauls yielded more than 2,000 invertebrate species and several hundred thousand specimens, many of them new species.
Those surveys ranged from Cape Hatteras to Newfoundland and out to depths to 4,000 meters (roughly 13,000 feet), and were largely explored with a dredge. Verrill is credited with inventing new types of collecting equipment and with perfecting other collecting gear. He found and described hundreds of new species collected on these surveys. By the time he died at age 87, Verrill had published more than 350 papers and monographs. Many became standard references, and described more than 1,000 new species of animals in virtually every major taxonomy group.
As partial compensation for his work at the Fish Commission, Verrill was allowed to keep duplicate specimens from the collections after the first set was sent to the Smithsonian Institution. His large personal collection is at Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, where it forms part of the Invertebrate Zoology collection.
Addison Emery Verrill Biographical Memoir (pdf, 50pg)
NOAA Corps Commander Amanda Goeller
Amanda Goeller has 18 years of NOAA Corps experience, which has taken her from coast to coast, serving both on land and at sea. She currently commands the NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada, which is homeported in Newport, Oregon.
Amanda spent part of her early career at our James J. Howard Marine Sciences Laboratory in Sandy Hook, New Jersey. In 2005, after her first assignment aboard the NOAA Ship Miller Freeman, Amanda joined the lab as the officer-in-charge of the R/V Nauvoo.
Amanda was instrumental in transforming the Nauvoo, a former Coast Guard vessel, into a working research vessel. She supported fisheries researchers; collaborated on field work, experimental design, and scuba diving operations; and ensured onboard safety and success of the scientific missions. Amanda also enjoyed participating in the laboratory’s outreach and open house programs and the chance to explain the NOAA Corps to visitors. She says, “I most enjoyed working directly with the scientists who regularly conducted their research aboard the Nauvoo.”
Commander Amanda Goeller completed her tour in Sandy Hook in 2009 and is deeply dedicated to the NOAA Corps. She loves the opportunity to learn on each new assignment, at sea or on shore, and continue to support the important research of NOAA.
Claire Steimle: Librarian and Advocate for Women in Science
As a marine research librarian, Claire Steimle worked tirelessly to improve and modernize our science center’s information services and resources. When a devastating fire destroyed the library at our Sandy Hook laboratory in 1985, she immediately began salvaging materials and securing donations. Her efforts were recognized with a Department of Commerce bronze medal for restoring 33,000 volumes of scientific literature, 90 percent of the library’s original collection.
An advocate for women, Claire served as the first Federal Women's Program coordinator for our science center. She highlighted the importance of career ladders for women in scientific, technical, and support positions. Claire partnered with numerous organizations to establish the first non-profit interagency child care center within NOAA in 1980. It is still operating today.
Claire Steimle joined the Sandy Hook laboratory in 1970 as a receptionist. She later worked as a personnel assistant and in other positions before becoming a marine research librarian in 1980. She received an undergraduate degree in history and sociology in 1973 from Georgian Court University, and a graduate degree in library science from Rutgers University in 1983.
Claire Steimle’s contributions greatly enhanced access to library resources and supported work-life balance for staff. Reflecting on her career, Claire recalls “I never dreamed that when I retired after 48 years of service that I would look back and feel like I had helped generations of scientists.”
Franco (Frank) Morello
On the 150th anniversary of NOAA Fisheries, we celebrate not only the history makers, but also those individuals who dedicated their careers to supporting the science and the scientists that make history. Franco (Frank) Morello exemplifies one of those dedicated employees.
Frank was born in Catanzaro, Italy, and came to the United States in 1959. He started his career in 1974 at our science center’s Sandy Hook Marine Lab in New Jersey. He was 17 years old when he arrived on a work/study program from Long Branch High School. He worked with the maintenance staff cleaning offices, delivering packages, and conducting repairs around the lab.
Years later, Frank showed interest in expanding his role and in 1996, the chief of our Behavioral Ecology Branch asked Frank to assist in field and laboratory work. After that, Frank was also an integral part of the science team, collecting and sorting samples, helping to construct laboratory systems, and maintaining gear and equipment.
Although Frank’s name may not appear on the title page of scientific publications, his work was essential to the success of our research. Frank was one of the most beloved and dedicated employees in the history of the Sandy Hook lab. He retired in 2012, after 40 years of service.
Research Geneticist Arlene Longwell
Research geneticist Arlene Longwell founded our science center's shellfish genetics research program at the Milford Laboratory. Arlene received a bachelor’s of science in biology and chemistry in 1953 and a doctorate in genetics in 1957 from the University of Missouri. She became the lab’s genetics program lead in 1966 and was among the first women scientists at Milford.
Arlene developed the karyotype (organized group of chromosomes) for the Eastern oyster. This provided the foundation for polyploidy (oysters that have extra sets of chromosomes and don’t breed with native populations), and molecular genetics in shellfish aquaculture research. Her team created a selective breeding program for oysters, promoting beneficial characteristics such as rapid growth, disease resistance, and increased survival.
She also studied how oysters and other marine organisms are affected by inbreeding, radiation, and mutagenesis as well as human-made challenges like oil spills. Arlene and her team found that exposure to pollution can result in death, malformation, and abnormal chromosome division in fish embryos. Arlene and her team were recognized for this research with a Department of Commerce silver medal.
Longwell’s colleague Sheila Stiles regards Arlene as a leader in establishing the foundations of shellfish genetics who served as a role model for women scientists in our science center. Arlene retired in 1996 with 30 years of federal service.
Milford Aquaculture Seminar
The Milford Aquaculture Seminar is a forum where scientists, aquaculture professionals, academics, and regulators gather to share research findings and discuss challenges and advances in shellfish cultivation.
In 1975, shellfish farmers asked us to develop a technology exchange for aquaculture. In response, Walter Blogoslawski, of our science center’s Milford Laboratory, led development of the seminar. “The interchange of ideas, research, and hands-on experience among attendees has fostered shellfish industry growth,” recalls Blogoslawski, who is now retired.
Over 46 years, this gathering has built a community of shared knowledge, trust, and collaboration among government, universities, insurance companies, shellfish farmers, students, and aquaculture equipment suppliers. The first joint biennial meeting was attended by 600 people. Since 2012 the seminar has partnered with the Northeast Aquaculture Conference and Exposition (NACE) to hold both meetings concurrently. Current conference chair Lisa Milke of the Milford Laboratory notes:
“This regionally important conference continues meeting its mission to enhance aquaculture development.”
This conference makes the latest scientific findings directly available to shellfish farmers to support the growth of sustainable shellfish aquaculture. The 41st Milford Aquaculture Seminar will be held in conjunction with NACE in 2022 in Portland, Maine.
Milford Lab Open House
The annual open house in October is a tradition at our science center’s Milford Laboratory in Connecticut. For 25 years, this 2-day event has hosted school group tours one day and the public the next.
Milford staffers set up stations around the lab where they display and explain ongoing research to visitors. During the open house, visitors meet staff and learn about NOAA research, see scientific demonstrations, and participate in hands-on activities. Popular highlights include the touch tank containing fish and shellfish from Long Island Sound and the fish printing station. That’s where children and adults alike use rubber fish molds covered in paint to create their own artwork.
Several hundred middle school, high school, and college students attend the event. During one open house, the laboratory hosted 1,700 visitors. Teachers often generate curriculum and assignments related to the displays. Professional researchers, community groups, and scouting troops also attend.
In response to the 2020 pandemic, staff prepared an interactive “open house” webinar that highlighted Milford Lab’s rich history and research. According to event coordinator Mark Dixon, many lifelong Milford residents who attend the open house for the first time are surprised to learn that Connecticut has been home to a NOAA aquaculture laboratory since 1931.
See more images from past open houses.
Fishery biologist: John Ziskowski, Jr.
Fishery biologist John Ziskowski was an expert in fish pathology. He graduated from Holy Cross College in 1959 with a chemistry degree. In 1972, John joined the James J Howard Marine Sciences Laboratory in Sandy Hook, New Jersey. There, he developed an expertise in diseases affecting commercially important fish species in the Northwest Atlantic. In 1987, John transferred to the Milford Laboratory in Milford, Connecticut. He studied fin erosion in flounder and used X-rays to examine skeletal changes in fish exposed to contaminants. He also monitored shell disease prevalence in New England lobsters.
Dedicated to collecting field samples, John spent more than 400 sea days on NOAA research vessels. Retired Chief Scientist Linda Despres recalls “when sampling fish, John prepared the work surface like a sterile operating room. He worked methodically, and kept meticulous records. He was always last on deck, but this was science and it had to be done right.”
John regularly hosted cultural and environmental-themed lunchtime events for Milford staff, actively promoting a positive and collaborative workplace. A friend and mentor to many, John retired in 2010 after 38 years of service. He left behind a legacy of knowledge that enhanced our understanding of the health of wild fish and lobsters.
Edith "Dusty" Gould, Mentor and Role Model
Research biochemist Edith “ Dusty” Gould strived to overcome the boundaries set for women. She earned her pilot's license to fly fixed-wing aircraft at 16 years old. In 1946, Dusty was one of few women to earn a master's degree in biochemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After 15 years working as a research pathologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, she joined the Milford Laboratory in 1970.
With her Milford Lab colleagues, Dusty studied the bioenergetics of fish and shellfish in response to stressors in laboratory experiments and field studies. Her research resulted in numerous publications. She collected samples from Long Island Sound and the Northwest Atlantic during Ocean Pulse and other NOAA Fisheries research cruises. Her biochemical research increased our understanding of how contaminants affect marine organisms.
Dusty enjoyed interesting “turns of phrase” and was enthusiastic about words and their origins. She kept a large copy of the Oxford Old English Dictionary on a pedestal outside her office for quick reference. Her skills as a scientific writer and editor were exemplary.
During 32 years with NOAA, Dusty served as a role model for young scientists, sharing her diverse interests and love of science. Technician Paul Clark remembers Dusty as a “knowledgeable and inspiring mentor,” while colleague Diane Rusanowsky recalls that for Dusty “science was an infinitely unfolding puzzle to approach with creativity, ingenuity, and integrity.”
Research Ecologist: Judy Yaqin Li
Judy Yaqin Li May is a research ecologist at the NOAA Fisheries Milford Laboratory and will be retiring this month after 16 years of federal service. Along with her colleagues, Judy’s research examines the variability in coastal environments over time and how this variability affects the phytoplankton at the base of the food web. She studies coastal ecology, and how shellfish aquaculture interacts with the environment. Judy earned her undergraduate degree in botany and a masters degree in marine phycology from Xiamen (Amoy) University in China during the 1980s. She received a doctorate in Oceanography from the University of Rhode Island in 1996.
“It was an honor and privilege to work at the Milford Lab, the same lab where Robert Guillard, an iconic and influential person in the field of phytoplankton physiology and ecology, did his very important work. I am very appreciative that the current lab director, Dr. Gary Wikfors, had the vision to incorporate my interest in phytoplankton into the lab’s research program of shellfish aquaculture and environmental interaction.”
Judy helped improve the accuracy of phytoplankton biomass measurements and developed new methods to analyze plankton community composition. Most recently, she conducted research on the ecology of sugar kelp aquaculture. Judy’s field and laboratory experimental results contribute to a better understanding of the plankton community and the physiology of phytoplankton. These are the base of the food web in coastal environments. This knowledge is essential to assess shellfish health, as phytoplankton is food for shellfish. We wish Judy all the best in retirement.
Read Judy's contribution to our Women's History Month.
Woods Hole: A Look Back to the late 1800s
Albatross Street in Woods Hole was originally called West Street, and MBL Street was once known as East Street. Part of North Street is now called Bar Neck Road. Water Street also had previous names: County Road and Main Street. The street names were all changed by the 1950s, mostly to avoid the confusion of having more than one Main Street or County Road in the town.
Did You Know - About Refuge Point?
The property where the Fish Commission‘s first permanent buildings were eventually constructed at the end of Water Street in 1885 was briefly called “Refuge Point.” Although letters exchanged between Spencer Baird and officials of the Town of Falmouth used that name for the property at the time, Refuge Point was not officially recognized. It did not appear on any charts or documents and was later abandoned. However, the new lab’s dock facilities were designed to serve as a refuge for small boats in bad weather and did so for many years.
According to The Story of the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries Biological Laboratory Woods Hole, Massachusetts by Paul S. Galtsoff published in 1962:
“Through the efforts of various business firms in Massachusetts, insurance companies, and masters of many coastal vessels, a bill was introduced in the House requesting an appropriation of $52,000 for the construction of a refuge in the Great Harbor of Woods Hole to permit vessels of 20-foot draft to come in and remain in perfect safety in severe storms and to furnish the basins for keeping live fish. The magnitude of the appropriation induced President Chester A. Arthur to defer approval for one year. The refuge was built in 1884 and proved to be a valuable asset to the station, not only as a safe shelter for small boats, but also as a convenient place to keep live-cars containing fish and invertebrates and conduct observations and experiments.”
NOAA Corps Lieutenant Erick Estela
In 2017, Lieutenant Erick Estela stepped up to become the first NOAA Corps captain of the R/V Victor Loosanoff, following the retirement of longtime civilian captain Robert Alix. To fill this role, he relocated from the James J. Howard Marine Sciences Laboratory in Sandy Hook, New Jersey, to the Milford Laboratory in Milford, Connecticut. Erick ensured continuity of shipboard operations and upheld the scientific mission during this leadership transition.
As captain, he oversaw safe field and dive operations during the intensive 3-year GoPro aquaculture habitat study. A member of the project team, Erick helped develop methods for recording fish activity around oyster aquaculture cages and rock reefs. Erick demonstrated the highest professionalism. A strong advocate for outreach, he established hands-on training sessions for NOAA Corps candidates to provide experience in ship handling. Erick also coordinated a shipyard haul-out of the vessel to complete required maintenance.
On one occasion, a small fire broke out below deck and was quickly extinguished, thanks to prompt action and teamwork by Erick and first mate Bill DeFrancesco. Regular safety drills had prepared the team to respond to just such an emergency. Currently, Erick serves on the R/V Bell M. Shimada, homeported in Newport, Oregon. Estela’s combined shipboard and scientific contributions began a tradition of excellence in NOAA Corps service at the NEFSC’s Milford Laboratory.
Launching Milford Laboratory's R/V Shang Wheeler
Milford Laboratory’s original research vessel Shang Wheeler was launched at West Haven Shipyard on March 28, 1951. The 50-foot copper-clad wooden boat was named in honor of local oysterman Charles (Shang) Wheeler, a tireless advocate for Connecticut’s shellfish industry and supporter of Milford Laboratory’s research mission.
The ceremony began with an invocation from Reverend Irwin Thursby of Milford’s 1st Congregational Church, followed by words of welcome from James Gilmore, chair of Connecticut’s Shellfish Commission. Judge Raymond Baldwin spoke about the role of the Congress in supporting fisheries research. David Wallace, director of the Oyster Institute of North America, addressed the significance of the name “Shang Wheeler" for oyster growers in Connecticut.
Ronald Clark, secretary of the shipbuilding company, formally presented Shang Wheeler to Milford Laboratory Director Dr. Victor Loosanoff, who accepted the vessel on behalf of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Victor’s wife Tamara officially christened the Shang Wheeler and upon launching, the boat made its way to Milford Harbor.
The R/V Shang Wheeler served as a platform for Milford Laboratory research on Long Island Sound waters for more than 50 years. It was retired from federal service in 2001.
Learn More: Aquaculture Comes Out of Its Shell (Today in Connecticut History)
A President Visits Woods Hole
Spencer Baird invited many government officials, scientists, and laymen to Woods Hole to learn about the U.S. Fish Commission’s operations. Among the visitors in 1882 was President Chester A. Arthur, who arrived on the 198-foot USS Despatch, the second in the line of the 10 presidential yachts. Here's what the Official Report of the Commanding Officer describes:
"At 9:30 a. m. September 6, the United States Steamer Despatch, having on board the President of the United States, and accompanied by the Fish Commission steamer Lookout, arrived in the harbor. At meridian we left the harbor with the President, Professor Baird, and others on board. To show the former the manner of working the various apparatus, three hauls of the trawl and dredge were made in Menemsha Bight. We reached port at 5: 55 p. m., when the President returned to the Despatch. At 5: 00 the next morning the Despatch, with the President on board, got under way and left the harbor.”
Formerly the commercial steamer America, the U.S. Navy purchased the ship in 1873 for special duty military assignments. The vessel was used as a cadet training ship, and to carry the secretary of the Navy, cabinet members, and congressional committees. Presidents Hayes, Garfield, Arthur, Cleveland, and Harrison sailed aboard the Despatch. President Grover Cleveland, a former governor of New York, was transported to and from Bedloe’s Island (now Liberty Island) in upper New York Bay on the Despatch for the dedication and unveiling of the Statue of Liberty on October 28, 1886.
Visits from a Vice President
In July 1967, Vice President Hubert Humphrey visited Woods Hole and several of the scientific institutions there, including the federal fisheries laboratory. He toured the federal R/V Albatross IV at the Woods Hole lab dock and spoke briefly with the crowd of employees and guests assembled nearby.
Joining him were Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy and Governor John Volpe. Members of the media were also on hand, as was Paul Galtsoff, a world-known researcher and former director of the federal lab in Woods Hole. Later, the group viewed exhibits in the Aquarium (photo above).
...And Two Secretaries
On May 9, 1963, Stewart L. Udall spoke at the commissioning of the fisheries research vessel Albatross IV. Udall was Secretary of the Interior from 1961 to 1969 under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, and a former Arizona congressman. He delivered remarks at the Woods Hole Laboratory ceremony.
Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo toured the Woods Hole Laboratory on June 4, 2021. After some brief remarks by Northeast Fisheries Science Center Director Jon Hare and other staff, the group visited with scientists and operators of the laboratory’s R/V Gloria Michelle at the dock. They then spoke with researchers who analyze biological trends in fish populations in a small cottage that has been retrofitted for their work. The tour ended in the Woods Hole Science Aquarium, where the group viewed the collection and heard from a few more scientists before conducting a short press availability. Joining the Secretary were Massachusetts Senator Edward Markey, Congressman William Keating, state representative Dylan Fernandes and state senator Susan Moran, as well staff from several Woods Hole scientific institutions with whom Raimondo she had met earlier in the day.
Baird and a Building as Teachers
In his 1962 history of the original NOAA Fisheries laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, Paul Galtsoff highlighted the links between the early science effort and a larger public responsibility. He wanted to help people understand what the lab was doing and why they should care about it.
“This laboratory greatly facilitated the work of sorting, identification, and preservation of the material collected at sea and made it possible to observe the behavior of various animals, and to study their spawning and the hatching of eggs. The opportunities for research in marine biology offered by the new laboratory attracted many outstanding biologists from New England colleges, as well as State fisheries Commissioners and the general public. Baird realized the importance of public support of his venture and encouraged the visitors to come and see the laboratory and the collection of live fish and other animals kept in tanks.
He was pleased when popular accounts of the activity of the new institution appeared in the New York Tribune under the signature of William C. Wyckoff, the scientific editor, who on several occasions was his guest at Woods Hole. A number of students were attracted to the new institution which offered an opportunity to conduct scientific research under Baird, who liberally offered his guidance and advice. At this time he actively participated in dredging, seining, or in collecting material in shallow water. Being an enthusiastic collector, he enjoyed going aboard the vessels with his students and assistants. He was frequently seen wading along the beaches of Woods Hole or seining from a small boat in Little Harbor.”
Editor: Rita Riccio
Rita Riccio joined Milford Laboratory after graduating from Our Lady of Good Counsel College in 1935. Hired as a stenographer, Rita acquired the skills to become technical publications editor. She provided editorial oversight and review for scientific papers written by staff. Her expertise in grammar and grasp of scientific concepts improved every manuscript that came across her desk.
In the days before computers, Rita meticulously edited each draft by hand. Every scientific publication from Milford concluded with an acknowledgment of Rita’s contributions. Retired fishery biologist Ron Goldberg remembers Rita’s attention to the smallest detail. When his first scientific paper arrived with a minor error in the citation, Rita painstakingly hand-corrected the typo on dozens of reprints.
Retired shellfish biologist Edwin Rhodes recalls:
“Those of us hoping to publish an article would bring a hand-written draft to Rita. She would edit and put it into typewritten form. We were at our own peril to make changes! Manuscripts had to be sent to journals in finished, clean, perfect form. Adding or eliminating a few words on a page would change the spacing for everything that followed and had to be re-typed. Rita had the personality of a stern first-grade teacher. You better be darn sure your change was necessary and then sell that to Rita.”
Over her 50-year career, Rita provided administrative support to Milford Laboratory directors Victor Loosanoff, James Hanks and Anthony Calabrese. She retired in 1986 at age 73.