During its May meeting, the New England Estuarine Research Society (NEERS) recognized the contributions of Bigelow Senior Research Scientist Emeritus Dr. Peter F. Larsen for his exemplary service to estuarine science and to their organization with an honorary NEERS membership. Only fifteen other individuals have been recognized in this way over the past 40 years.
Larsen’s service to NEERS spans four decades and he is still actively participating in the organization. He helped organize seven NEERS meetings from 1978-2007, including highlighting the importance of interacting with northern colleagues. He planned the first-ever international NEERS meeting during the fall of 1985 in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, which required U.S. attendees to take the overnight ferry from Portland. Larsen held a number of senior positions at NEERS: secretary/treasurer from 1980-1982, president from 1982-1984, and the past president from 1984-86.
He also served as secretary of NEERS’ parent organization, the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation from 1981-1983. Larsen is credited with keeping NEERS focused on issues that posed challenges for coastal environments, including the consequences of greenhouse gas emissions, the impacts of land usage, and rising sea levels. In 1985, Larsen organized a NEERS meeting that included one of the first symposia on sea-level rise, which at the time was a topic that had just begun to garner the attention of scientists.
One of the colleagues who nominated Larsen for this honor, Dr. Veronica M. Berounsky, has known him since 1977 when she was hired by Larsen to work in the benthic lab at Bigelow Laboratory.
“Peter was, and still is, always innovative in his thinking about NEERS meetings and estuarine science–what is the best way to get scientists and managers and educators to talk to each other and also make the meeting memorable? Putting them together on a ferry to Nova Scotia was one way; giving them ample time to talk over a clambake outside the refurbished Boothbay Harbor Opera House was another. Peter’s ideas still motivate me,” said Berounsky.
After receiving a doctorate in marine science from the College of William and Mary, Larsen began his career as the state oceanographer for the Maine Department of Marine Resources in 1973. In1976, he joined Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences as a research scientist, where he continues to conduct research today. Larsen has also been a reviewer for several journals and has served on the Board of Editors for the "Northeastern Naturalist" since 2002.
Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences conducts research ranging from microbial oceanography to large-scale ocean processes that affect the global environment. Recognized as a leader in Maine’s emerging innovation economy, the Laboratory’s research, education and technology transfer programs are spurring significant economic growth in the state.