By far, the greatest of Newfoundland and Labrador’s traditions is its centuries-long connection with the sea and its immense resources.
For that reason, Memorial’s earliest visionaries placed an emphasis on marine science.
Fifty years ago, that focus led to the creation of what is now known as the Ocean Sciences Centre (OSC) in Logy Bay, N.L.
The Marine Sciences Research Laboratory (MSRL), as it was called at the time, was constructed in the ’60s to meet the needs of all university faculty interested in marine organisms.
Now faculty and friends of the facility are being invited back to celebrate achievements and memories from the past 50 years at a reunion scheduled for Sept. 8-10.
The celebrations will kick off on Friday, Sept. 8, at Bitters Graduate Bar and Pub on the St. John’s campus with more events still under development.
Danielle Nichols, research marketing manager at the Department of Ocean Sciences, is chairing the OSC reunion committee. She says plans are well underway.
“We’re really looking forward to reconnecting with anyone who has had ties to the OSC over the past 50 years,” she said.
“In addition to the social at Bitters, we are also working on an open house for that Saturday and our Ocean Sciences Graduate Student Association is co-ordinating other activities for our friends and their families throughout the weekend. It’s going to be a great time!”
A look back
The MSRL first became operational in 1968 with Dr. Fred Aldrich as director, reporting to the head of biology.
Over the next few years, Dr. David Idler, who succeeded Dr. Aldrich as director, worked to establish the MSRL as an internationally recognized research facility that functioned year-round. Eventually it became a research unit within the Faculty of Science.
The facility would grow from the main building, known for its iconic round shape that was modelled after a sea anemone, to include the Annex, the Dr. Joe Brown Aquatic Research Building, and most recently, the Cold-Water and Deep-Sea Research Facility.
In the late 2000s, then-director Dr. Garth Fletcher and associate director Dr. Chris Parrish began developing an academic program for the OSC. The Department of Ocean Sciences was approved by the Board of Regents in 2012. The department began offering its first academic programming with minors in oceanography and sustainable aquaculture and fisheries ecology in 2015.
In the fall of 2017, the department will begin offering three new science majors: ocean sciences, ocean sciences (environmental systems) and marine biology.
Dr. Fletcher, now head of the Department of Ocean Sciences, joined the facility as a researcher in 1971. He’s seen nearly everything that has happened at the facility and was directly involved in one of its most significant accomplishments: the invention of the first genetically modified animal approved as food in the United States.
Dr. Fletcher says while the facility has seen a lot of change over the past 50 years, the next 50 are looking bright.
“The recent development of becoming a department and having our own majors in ocean sciences bodes well for the future,” he said.
“As well, the movement within some science departments to focus more on oceans research and develop collaborations within the university is essential to get critical mass in this area. The Ocean Frontier Institute will also help with that. Once it gets rolling, hopefully, it will become seed money to get bigger things happening with ocean sciences at Memorial.”
To be notified when online registration opens for the Ocean Sciences Centre’s 50th anniversary reunion, please visit the website and submit your contact information.
If you have photos or memories from your time at the Ocean Sciences Centre, please email Danielle Nichols.