The Ecosystems Center (1975-2018) - Introduction to the Ecosystems Center

The Ecosystems Center is a research organization at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole, MA. In the early 1970s James D. Ebert, then-director of the MBL, recruited the ecologist George Woodwell to start raising funds for a new, year-round research center at the MBL. Woodwell, who was at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, NY, at the time, worked with the MBL to raise the necessary funds to start to the Ecosystems Center. The Ecosystems Center officially formed on January 1, 1975.

According to the Ecosystems Center’s annual reports, which started in 1979, the Ecosystems Center was formed to support basic ecological research, to strengthen education at the MBL, and to find practical applications of science for management of natural resources. Scientists at the Ecosystems Center aimed to understand ecosystem functions and processes. Research has focused on the nitrogen cycle, sulfur and energy cycling in coastal ecosystems, and modeling of terrestrial ecosystems, among others.

In the early years of the Ecosystems Center, scientists worked at research sites in Alaska, temperate forests in Massachusetts and Maine, and salt marshes in Cape Cod, MA. Research sites in Toolik Lake, Alaska, Harvard Forest, MA, and Plum Island Sound, MA, have all become Long Term Ecological Research sites, funded by the US National Science Foundation. In addition to these sites, scientists have collaborated on international projects including a long-term comparative study of arctic ecosystems in Abisko, Sweden, and Toolik Lake. Scientists from the Ecosystems Center have collaborated with the University of São Paulo, Brazil, since 1992 to study the impacts of rainforest deforestation in Brazil.