Sixteen Maine high school juniors, two of them from Waldo County, completed a week of experiential learning at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences last month.

Harmony Dawson of Belfast Area High School and Olivia Kelly of Islesboro Central School worked side-by-side with Bigelow Laboratory scientists, went on a research cruise, conducted experiments, and learned how to analyze and present their results as part of the 30th annual Keller BLOOM (Bigelow Laboratory Orders Of Magnitude) program.

Over the last three decades, the program has provided nearly 500 Maine students with education based on authentic ocean research.

“Reaching the 30-year milestone was quite an achievement,” said Research Scientist Nicole Poulton, who directs the program. “About 65 percent of our participants pursue a career in science and live in Maine, and it’s been wonderful to stay in touch with many of them as they attend college and move forward with their careers.”

The five-day spring program provides students with an immersive hands-on experience learning about the physical, biological, and chemical characteristics of the local marine environment. Students apply for the program, and 16 are selected from across Maine. The program offers them the opportunity to learn what a scientific career might be like.

Poulton organized a career panel as part of the 30th anniversary celebration. Six former participants from the last three decades of the program shared advice and stories about their career progression with the current students. The curriculum also included a new biotechnology component, during which the students explored the field of seaweed aquaculture.

To make the Keller BLOOM program open and accessible for everyone, all costs of participation are covered. The First National Bank, Morton-Kelly Charitable Trust, and the Reny Charitable Foundation provided key contributions this year, as did other foundations and individuals.

The Keller BLOOM program is named in honor of the late Maureen Keller, a Bigelow Laboratory scientist. Bigelow Laboratory Senior Research Scientist David Fields co-leads the program alongside Poulton.

“One of the most important impacts of the BLOOM program is the human element. The program has helped students jump-start their careers, and in many cases, realize their career ambitions,” Fields said. “For all the staff and faculty involved in this program over the past 30 years, it has been deeply rewarding to watch these students develop and contribute to advancements in science.”

Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences is an independent, nonprofit research institute located in East Boothbay, Maine. From the Arctic to the Antarctic, Bigelow Laboratory scientists use cutting-edge techniques to understand the ocean's mysteries, address its challenges, and unlock its hidden opportunities. Learn more at, and join the conversation on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.