Dr. Edith Widder is an internationally renowned deep-sea explorer and founder of the Ocean Research & Conservation Association (ORCA), a scientific-based conservation nonprofit.
A specialist in bioluminescence (the light chemically produced by many ocean organisms), Widder has been a leader to design and invent submersible instrumentation and equipment to enable unobtrusive deep-sea observations. Working with engineers, she has conceived and built devices that enable humans to see beneath the waves in new ways.
Two of Widder’s inventions include HIDEX, a bathyphotometer and the U.S. Navy standard for measuring bioluminescence in the ocean to keep submarines hidden, and LoLAR, an ultrasensitive deep-sea light meter that measures dim down-welling sunlight and bioluminescence in the deep ocean.
Widder is a certified Scientific Research Pilot for Atmospheric Diving Systems and holds certifications to dive the deep diving suit WASP, as well as the single-person untethered submersibles DEEP ROVER and DEEP WORKER. She has made over 250 dives in the JOHNSON-SEA-LINK submersibles.
Following 16 years as senior scientist at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, Widder established ORCA to pioneer work in marine exploration and conservation, invent new ocean technologies and preserve the ocean. She created ORCA’s remotely operated deep-sea camera system Eye-in-the-Sea (EITS), which detects and measures the bioluminescence of nearby organisms on the sea floor and has produced footage of rare sharks, jellyfish and discovered a new species of large squid in their natural habitats.
Widder was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 2006 and participated in the 2010 TED Mission Blue Voyage to the Galapagos Islands along with other leading thinkers and advocates of ocean conservation. Her research and inventions have been featured on BBC, PBS and National Geographic television productions. In 2012, Widder and several other scientists filmed the giant squid in its natural habitat for the first time. The historic footage aired on the Discovery Channel in Jan. 2013. In June 2019 she repeated the feat using the same camera system in US waters.
Widder graduated magna cum laude from Tufts University where she received a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology. She also earned a Masters degree in Biochemistry and a PhD in Neurobiology awarded by the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Photos: Dr. Edith Widder, top; Dr. Widder with Nathan Robinson and Medusa, right.