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Science & Tech

BU Marine Program to move from Cape Cod to Charles River Campus

Relocation and expansion in the future for 36-year-old University institution

CAS Biology Professor Ivan Valiela, a BUMP faculty member, takes a sample of marsh grass with students Ylva Olsen (GRS'07) (left) and Jen Culbertson (GRS'07) at an estuary in Woods Hole, Mass. Photo by Vernon Doucette

In the summer of 2006, the BU Marine Program (BUMP) will move from the Cape Cod town of Woods Hole to the Charles River Campus. The decision to relocate the program was made to better serve its educational mission, according to Vincent Dionne, a College of Arts and Sciences biology professor and BUMP director ad interim.

The program will be expanded, and a permanent director will be hired within a year, Dionne says. BU plans to build a teaching laboratory specifically for BUMP adjacent to the biology department’s aquarium facilities at 5 Cummington St.

BUMP has been located at the Marine Biological Laboratory, an independent scientific institution in Woods Hole, since 1969. Its graduate program, which offers both a two-year research master’s degree and a Ph.D. in biology, was conducted largely in residence, and undergraduates spent a semester in Woods Hole taking intensive courses. Despite the move, the biology department will continue to offer several classes there for at least two years.

Dionne says that the changes will provide faculty and students with greater access to the University’s broad interdisciplinary research. “The program is developing into more of an interdepartmental entity,” says the biology department’s director of undergraduate studies. Collaborations will be possible with researchers on campus whose interests include coastal and open ocean environments.

The decision to relocate BUMP was made last year after discussions with administrators at the Marine Biological Laboratory about the possibility of augmenting the program on the institution’s 100-acre site. “If we grow a program and add faculty, we need more laboratory space, and they didn’t have the facilities that we could expand into,” says Dionne. At present, there are 5 BUMP core faculty in Woods Hole, as well as 5 lecturers and adjunct faculty, 3 staff members, and 28 graduate students.

There are obvious advantages to running the program at a marine environment, says Dionne, but there are numerous and unique educational opportunities available for BUMP students on the Charles River Campus, where biology facilities — and the number of biology faculty — have expanded in recent years.

The decision to relocate the program, Dionne says, wasn’t without controversy among BUMP professors and students. “People were worried that the program was being destroyed, but the goal is to grow it and make it stronger,” he says. In addition, BUMP faculty will continue to collaborate on research with their colleagues in the Woods Hole scientific community.

“The disappointment, of course, is losing Woods Hole as a base of operations,” says Dionne. “But we gain those kinds of academic resources — a rich cadre of students, faculty, and disciplines — that are important to any teaching enterprise.”