Dr. Rhian Waller, a University of Maine associate professor based at the Darling Marine Center in Walpole, was recently granted tenure. Waller lives in Jefferson and is a cold-water coral biologist in UMaine’s School of Marine Sciences.
Waller was one of twenty-nine faculty members from the University of Maine to receive tenure or promotion this spring. The faculty members were nominated by UMaine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy based on a peer and administrative review of their successful teaching, research and public service, and approved by the University of Maine System Board of Trustees.
Waller joined the University of Maine as a faculty member in 2011, when she moved from Hawaii to Maine to join the DMC community. This past year, she worked with researchers at the Tjärnö Marine Laboratory at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, studying how environmental changes effect fertilization and larval formation in deep sea corals. The Swedish marine laboratory is adjacent to the Kosterhavet Marine National Park and part of her work focused on identifying rare cold-water coral ecosystems within the park. Waller’s time in Sweden was supported by a prestigious Marie Curie Fellowship.
Waller’s research focuses on deep sea and polar ecosystems. When asked about how these mysterious and distant ocean places relate to the DMC’s core mission of connecting people to the ocean, Waller reflected that her research is part of a “longtime connection between DMC researchers and deep sea and polar ecosystems.” Since the DMC’s founding in 1965, UMaine researchers based in Walpole have studied the deep and polar oceans. They include ichthyologist Hugh DeWitt, benthic ecologist Les Watling, and developmental biologist Kevin Eckelbarger, who also served as the DMC director from 1990 to 2013.
“I’m very proud that myself and my students can continue the DMC tradition of studying deep and polar oceans,” Waller reflected. “These are amazing ecosystems, inhabited by organisms about which we still have a lot to learn.”
Waller’s work has been supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation, NOAA’s Ocean Exploration Program and Cooperative Institute for the North Atlantic Region, National Geographic, Waitt Foundation, and the NOAA Alaska Fisheries Science Center, among others.
Waller has brought UMaine undergraduates on her ocean explorations to Antarctica, Alaska and the Gulf of Maine on multiple occasions. She noted that the opportunity to teach and conduct research in the field with these students is one of her career highlights.
“I hope to continue to be able to explore the deep ocean with students in the future. Field experiences benefit the student, but also the research – they see the ecosystem in new ways and we gain invaluable perspectives from that. Students also have the opportunity to explore the diversity of careers available to them as marine scientists and engineers when you bring them on cutting edge research expeditions.”
More information is available at dmc.umaine.edu