April 18, 2014

“On the Occasion of an Important Anniversary”

In 1899 the MBL began publishing The Biological Bulletin, a journal of biological research that MBL Director Charles Otis Whitman had launched two years earlier under the name The Zoological Bulletin. The journal has been edited at and published by the MBL every year since, through many changes in both the lab and in the biological sciences. Its current editor-in-chief, James L. Olds of George Mason University, has penned an editorial to commemorate the MBL’s 125th anniversary. Here is a preview; the editorial will be published in the next issue. (For more historical information about the Biological Bulletin, please visit the History of the MBL site).

Reference: Biol. Bull. 224: 119-240. (August 2013)

©2013 Marine Biological Laboratory

On the Occasion of an Important Anniversary

The arrival of the current issue of The Biological Bulletin marks the 125th anniversary of our publisher, The Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. It also marks a new chapter for MBL as it commences an affiliation with the University of Chicago. The virtual symposium within this issue, “Cell Biology of Gametes and Embryos: Insights from Marine Invertebrates” edited by Dominic Poccia of Amherst College, represents, in every sense, a commemoration of that anniversary. Any cursory history of cell biology would reveal the MBL’s central role in some of this field’s seminal discoveries over the last century and a quarter.

small-bb.coverRecently, as I had the pleasure of sailing through Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park, with its abundant diversity of species, I thought a bit about the founding, in 1888, of the MBL: in proximity to the Gulf Stream, at the juncture of Vineyard Sound and Buzzards Bay, MBL enjoys a similar blessing of species diversity. The initial trajectory of the MBL took specific advantage of this species diversity, but the institution has since progressed in some very fruitful ways that go far beyond this initial advantage. At today’s MBL, you are as likely to find someone patch-clamping rodent hippocampal neurons as you are to wander past tanks of squid or sea urchins. MBL is of course unique with its long history; but it also singular, to my opinion, among America’s marine labs because of the breadth of its science, which now spans the complete realm of biological discovery.

With breadth, also comes depth. In Ecology, Microbiology, Cell Biology, and Neuroscience, just to name a few, investigators at the laboratory continue to make high-impact discoveries, a  number of which have led to a Nobel Prize. Over the years, several of those key discoveries have been published first within these pages. And beyond its contribution to research, the education programs at MBL, in particular, the summer courses, have been called a “national treasure.” Generations of biological scientists have had their careers forever altered by an MBL educational experience— and that includes myself three decades ago.

So especially here, at this time, we celebrate the 125th anniversary of MBL. As it enters a new chapter we rejoice in what promises to be an exciting future, retaining its central role as a catalyst for biological discovery, while also opening up new opportunities with one of the world’s premier research universities.

This journal, The Biological Bulletin, is also over a century old. At the ripe age of 116, we continue to reinvent ourselves, with novel forays into the open access space, position papers, and virtual symposia like the one in this issue, while at the same time maintaining the availability of our entire catalog since 1897 on-line at www.biolbull.org. Like our publisher, we have branched out significantly from the early focus on marine invertebrate models, although that biological thread remains clearly visible in every issue. Like our publisher, with breadth comes depth, as evidenced by the current virtual symposium in this issue.

As a neuroscientist, I’ve found my own interest in gamete and embryo biology. Eighteen years ago, at the MBL, we used the sea urchin oocyte model system to visualize the activation of protein kinase C in close to real time after fertilization (Olds et al., Developmental Biology 1995). PKC is an enzyme family that also plays a key role in the neurobiology of learning and memory—a topic central to my own scientific interests. For us, the sea urchin oocyte represented a robust model system in which activation was under tight spatial and temporal control. For others, the cell biology of gametes has its own intrinsic interest: these cells are at the nexus of reproduction across eukaryotes.In any case, I hope that our readers will enjoy this issue as they celebrate the institution that founded and publishes this wonderful journal.


James L. Olds, Editor-in-Chief