Edith Widder

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Edith Widder
Edie thumb 33 ft.jpg
Widder in the Johnson Sea Link submersible, July 2009
Edith Anne Widder

(1951-06-11) June 11, 1951 (age 68)
Other namesEdith "Edie" Anne Widder Smith
EducationTufts University (B.S. 1973)
University of California, Santa Barbara (M.S. 1977, Ph.D. 1982)
Known forBioluminescence research
Spouse(s)David Smith
AwardsMacArthur Fellow (2006)
Scientific career
FieldsOceanography and marine biology

Edith Anne "Edie" Widder Smith (born June 11, 1951[1][2]) is an American oceanographer, marine biologist, and the Co-founder, CEO and Senior Scientist at the Ocean Research & Conservation Association.[3][4][5]

Early life and education[edit]

Widder was born in June 1951 in Arlington, Massachusetts[6] to Dr. David Widder, a Harvard University mathematics professor, and Dr. Vera Widder, a mathematician turned stay at home mother.[7] She also had an older brother, David Charles Widder.[8]

She graduated from Tufts University magna cum laude with a B.S. in Biology, from University of California, Santa Barbara with an M.S. in Biochemistry, and from University of California, Santa Barbara with a PhD in Neurobiology, in 1982.[9]


Widder was a senior scientist and director of the Bioluminescence Department at the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution from 1989 to 2005.[10] Certified as a Scientific Research Pilot for Atmospheric Diving Systems in 1984, she holds certifications that qualify her to dive the deep diving suit WASP[4] as well as the single-person untethered submersibles DEEP ROVER and DEEP WORKER[11] and she has made over 250 dives in the JOHNSON SEA LINK submersibles.[12] Her research involving submersibles has been featured in BBC, PBS, Discovery Channel and National Geographic television productions.[13][14][15]

A specialist in bioluminescence, she has been a leader in helping to design and invent new instrumentation and techniques that enable scientists to see the ocean in new ways. These include HIDEX, a bathyphotometer, which is the U.S. Navy standard for measuring bioluminescence in the ocean,[16] and a remotely operated camera system, known as Eye in the Sea (EITS), an unobtrusive deep-sea observatory.[17][18][19]

In 2005, Widder co- founded the Ocean Research & Conservation Association (ORCA), a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of aquatic ecosystems and the species they sustain through development of innovative technologies and science-based conservation action. While translating complex scientific issues into engineerable solutions, Widder is fostering greater understanding of ocean life as a means to better, more informed ocean stewardship. In September 2006 she was awarded a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation[20] and in 2010 she participated in the TED Mission Blue Voyage in the Galapagos.[21]

In 2012, a team of scientists comprising Edith Widder, marine biologist Steve O'Shea and zoologist Tsunemi Kubodera successfully filmed a live giant squid (Architeuthis dux) in its natural habitat[22] aboard Oceanx's MV Alucia.[23]

Personal life[edit]

Widder is married to David Smith, a computer engineer.[24]



  • Widder, E. A.; Latz, M. I.; Herring, P. J.; Case, J. F. (1984). "Far Red Bioluminescence from Two Deep-Sea Fishes". Science. 225 (4661): 512–514. doi:10.1126/science.225.4661.512. PMID 17750854.
  • Widder, E. A.; Bernstein, S. A.; Bracher, D. F.; Case, J. F.; Reisenbichler, K. R.; Torres, J. J.; Robison, B. H. (1989). "Bioluminescence in the Monterey Submarine Canyon: Image analysis of video recordings from a midwater submersible". Marine Biology. 100 (4): 541–551. doi:10.1007/BF00394831.
  • Widder, E. A. (2009). "Mixed light imaging system for recording bioluminescence behaviours". Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. 72: 131. doi:10.1017/S0025315400048839.
  • Widder, E. A.; Greene, C. H.; Youngbluth, M. J. (1992). "Bioluminescence of sound-scattering layers in the Gulf of Maine". Journal of Plankton Research. 14 (11): 1607–1624. doi:10.1093/plankt/14.11.1607.
  • Widder, E.; Case, J.; Bernstein, S.; MacIntyre, S.; Lowenstine, M.; Bowlby, M.; Cook, D. (1993). "A new large volume bioluminescence bathyphotometer with defined turbulence excitation". Deep-Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers. 40 (3): 607–627. doi:10.1016/0967-0637(93)90148-V.
  • Widder, E.A. (1997) Bioluminescence – Shedding some light on plankton distribution patterns. Sea Technology March 1997:33–39.
  • Widder, E. A. (1998). "A predatory use of counterillumination by the squaloid shark, Isistius brasiliensis". Environmental Biology of Fishes. 53 (3): 267–273. doi:10.1023/A:1007498915860.
  • Widder, E.A. (1999) Bioluminescence. In: “Adaptive Mechanisms in the Ecology of Vision.” Edited by: S.N. Archer, M.B.A. Djamgoz, E. Loew, J.C. Partridge & S. Vallerga. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, the Netherlands. pp 555–581.
  • Johnsen, S., E.J. Balser and E.A. Widder. (1999) Modified suckers as light organs in a deep-sea octopod. Nature 398:113–114.
  • Widder, E. A.; Johnsen, S.; Bernstein, S. A.; Case, J. F.; Neilson, D. J. (1999). "Thin layers of bioluminescent copepods found at density discontinuities in the water column". Marine Biology. 134 (3): 429–437. doi:10.1007/s002270050559.
  • Johnsen, S. and E.A. Widder. (1999) The physical basis of transparency in biological tissue: Ultrastructure and the minimization of light scattering. J. Theor. Biol. 199: 181–198
  • Widder, E.A and S. Johnsen (2000) 3D spatial point patterns of bioluminescent plankton: A map of the “minefield” J. Plank. Res. 22(3): 409–420.
  • Widder, E.A. (2000) Bioluminescence in octopods. Yearbook of Science and Technology. McGraw-Hill 2001: 52–55.
  • Herring, P.J. and E.A. Widder (2001) Bioluminescence in plankton and nekton. In; Steele, J.H., Thorpe, S.A. and Turekian, K.K. editors, Encyclopedia of Ocean Science, Vol. 1, 308–317. Academic Press, San Diego.
  • Widder, E. A.; Frank, T. M. (2001). "The speed of an isolume: A shrimp's eye view". Marine Biology. 138 (4): 669–677. doi:10.1007/s002270000504.
  • Widder, E.A. (2001) Bioluminescence. Bioscience Explained http://www.bioscience-explained.org/EN1.1/features.html Invited review.
  • Widder, E. (2002). "Bioluminescence and the Pelagic Visual Environment". Marine and Freshwater Behaviour and Physiology. 35: 1–26. doi:10.1080/10236240290025581.
  • Widder, E. A. (2002). "SPLAT CAM: Mapping plankton distributions with bioluminescent road-kill": 1711–1715. doi:10.1109/OCEANS.2002.1191891.
  • Widder, Edith (2002). The Bioluminescence Coloring Book. Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution. ISBN 978-0-9659686-6-9.
  • Widder, E.A., C.L. Frey and L.J. Borne (2003) HIDEX Generation II: A New and Improved Instrument for Measuring Marine Bioluminescence. Marine Technology Society of the IEEE, Oceans 4:2214–2221
  • Widder, E.A., C.L. Frey and J.R. Bowers (2005) Improved bioluminescence measurement instrument. Sea Technology 46(2): 10–16
  • Widder, E.; Robison, B.; Reisenbichler, K.; Haddock, S.H.D. (2005). "Using red light for in situ observations of deep-sea fishes". Deep-Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers. 52 (11): 2077–2085. doi:10.1016/j.dsr.2005.06.007.
  • Widder, E.A. (2006) A look back at quantifying oceanic bioluminescence: Seeing the light, flashes of insight and other bad puns. Mar Tech Soc J. 40(2):136–137.
  • Widder, E.A. (2007) Sly eye for the shy guy: Peering into the depths with new sensors Oceanography. 20(4): 46–51 (invited review)
  • Widder, E. A. (2010). "Bioluminescence in the Ocean: Origins of Biological, Chemical, and Ecological Diversity". Science. 328 (5979): 704–708. doi:10.1126/science.1174269. PMID 20448176.

Further reading[edit]

  • Collard, Sneed B. (2006). In the Deep Sea. New York: Marshall Cavendish Benchmark. ISBN 978-0-7614-1952-5.


  1. ^ "Persons born on 11 June 1951". SortedByBirthDate.com. Retrieved November 19, 2014.
  2. ^ "Edith Widder Smith FL Voter Info". FLVoters.com. Retrieved November 19, 2014.
  3. ^ ORCA – Ocean Research & Conservation Association Archived 2011-07-22 at the Wayback Machine. Teamorca.org (September 13, 2011). Retrieved on October 21, 2011.
  4. ^ a b NOAA Ocean Explorer: OceanAGE Careers. Oceanexplorer.noaa.gov (August 5, 2010). Retrieved on October 21, 2011.
  5. ^ ORCA – Ocean Research and Conservation Association – Team & Staff Archived 2010-04-18 at the Wayback Machine. Oceanrecon.org. Retrieved on October 21, 2011.
  6. ^ "The Art of Exploration" (PDF). The Kennedy Center Imagination Celebration Fort Worth. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 10, 2007. Retrieved November 19, 2014.
  7. ^ Ross, Michael Elsohn (2014). A World of Her Own: 24 Amazing Women Explorers and Adventurers. Chicago, Illinois: Chicago Review Press. p. 131. ISBN 9781613744413. Retrieved November 19, 2014.
  8. ^ "FAS Memorial Minute: David V. Widder". News.Harvard.edu. Harvard Gazette. December 11, 1997. Retrieved November 19, 2014.
  9. ^ Microsoft Word – Widder cv _3_.doc Archived 2009-09-02 at the Wayback Machine. (PDF). Retrieved on October 21, 2011.
  10. ^ Researcher Bios Archived 2009-08-30 at the Wayback Machine. At-sea.org. Retrieved on October 21, 2011.
  11. ^ [1] Archived September 3, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ NOAA Ocean Explorer: Dr. Edie Widder Video Profile. Oceanexplorer.noaa.gov (August 1, 2006). Retrieved on October 21, 2011.
  13. ^ NOVA | Profile: Edith Widder. Pbs.org (July 23, 2008). Retrieved on October 21, 2011.
  14. ^ Access Video On Demand – Midwater Mysteries Archived 2011-08-12 at the Wayback Machine. Avod.films.com. Retrieved on October 21, 2011.
  15. ^ National Geographic's Ocean Drifters [VHS]: Movies & TV. Amazon.com. Retrieved on October 21, 2011.
  16. ^ Widder, E.; Case, J.; Bernstein, S.; MacIntyre, S.; Lowenstine, M.; Bowlby, M.; Cook, D. (1993). "A new large volume bioluminescence bathyphotometer with defined turbulence excitation". Deep-Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers. 40 (3): 607–627. doi:10.1016/0967-0637(93)90148-V.
  17. ^ "Eye in the Sea camera reveals mysterious life on the ocean floor", Palm Beach Post, KIM MILLER, March 8, 2009
  18. ^ Schrope, M. (2007). "Marine biology: Lights in the deep". Nature. 450 (7169): 472–474. doi:10.1038/450472a. PMID 18033270.
  19. ^ The Beauty of Ugly – Interview: Dr. Edith Widder – Eye in the Sea | Nature. PBS. Retrieved on October 21, 2011.
  20. ^ Edith Widder – MacArthur Foundation[dead link]. Macfound.org. Retrieved on October 21, 2011.
  21. ^ Edith Widder: Glowing life in an underwater world | Video on. Ted.com. Retrieved on October 21, 2011.
  22. ^ TED Talk 2013 - Edith Widder: How we found the giant squid on YouTube
  23. ^ "Search For The Giant Squid". OceanX. 2018-05-12. Retrieved 2019-03-29.
  24. ^ Michaels, Marty (October 26, 2006). "Turning Back the Tide" (PDF). The Chronicle of Philanthropy. XIX (2). Washington, D.C. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 2, 2009. Retrieved November 19, 2014.

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