Information for Whitman Center Scientists

December 16: 2021 Planning Update

To: MBL Course Directors, Vendors, and Whitman Scientists

From: Linda Hyman, Burroughs Wellcome Director of Education; David Mark Welch, Director of Research; Paul Speer, Chief Operating Officer

Subject: 2021 Planning Update

In recent months, two working groups have been carefully assessing the capacity necessary to offer education and visiting research programs at the MBL in the coming year while considering the needs of resident faculty and prioritizing the health of the MBL and local communities.

Working closely with course directors, we are pleased to share a 2021 course schedule that reflects our goal of resuming as many academic and research activities as possible while adhering to public health guidance around social distancing and other measures designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Six advanced research training courses— Frontiers in Reproduction (FIR), Physical Biology of the Cell (PBC), Zebrafish Development and Genetics (ZEBRA), Biology of the Inner Ear (BIE), Workshop on Molecular Evolution (MOLE), and Strategies and Techniques for Analyzing Microbial Population Structures (STAMPS)—chose not to meet in 2021 and, as such, the schedule reflects a reduced course footprint. This will allow for our full compliance with Commonwealth of Massachusetts and CDC recommendations for safe operations of our campus, including in labs, residences, classrooms, and common areas.

The Research Division intends to host all Whitman and Grass Fellows who are able to travel to the MBL in summer 2021, along with a limited number of Whitman Scientists as space allows. Whitman Scientists are being encouraged to plan their time at the MBL in non-peak months.

We are confident that MBL laboratories, classrooms, and housing/dining facilities will support a rich learning and working environment for our students and scientists. While all expectations are that the current pandemic situation will be improved by spring/summer 2021, it is important to remember that this is a fluid situation and that flexibility to adjust as needed based on external conditions and trends in the pandemic will be necessary.

The University of Chicago is providing technical support to help us operationalize the schedule and assess risk management. While details are not available at this time, planning for quarantine dormitory space, COVID-19 testing and monitoring, and childcare, along with a host of other operational details, is currently underway and will continue throughout the winter. We will continue to keep you updated regularly as operational plans develop.

Although the health and safety requirements that we are adopting to minimize the spread of COVID-19 will necessitate a different on-campus experience in 2021, it is only through these steps and a shared commitment to maintaining public health that our education and visiting research programs can resume.

Nevertheless, the coming year promises to be a productive one for training and research at the MBL. We look forward to resuming our transformative education and research opportunities with a renewed sense of purpose. Please reach out Linda Hyman at lhyman@mbl.edu or David Mark Welch at dmarkwelch@mbl.edu with questions or concerns.

November 20: Update on Calendar Year 2021 Planning

Dear Colleagues,

Last month we announced the formation of two working groups charged with assessing the capacity and space required to safely offer research and education activities at the MBL in the coming year.

The Visitor Working Group was tasked with developing a comprehensive list of the constituencies who come to campus and the space utilization that each group requires. The Space Capacity & Expansion Working Group was asked to analyze the capacities of all spaces—including housing, dining, lab, lecture, and childcare—and explore ways we might expand available space, for example by erecting tents. Our planning assumption is that the current Massachusetts COVID-19 guidelines and restrictions will stay in place through the spring and summer.

David Mark Welch and the Research team have determined the space available across campus for Whitman Scientists and Grass Fellows. Linda Hyman and the Education team are continuing to work with course faculty to think creatively about how they can augment course schedules and/or rosters to allow for the most programs as possible.

It has become clear that lab space will be the limiting factor for all programs. We do not anticipate having capacity issues for housing or dining. David, Linda, and Nipam Patel will meet over the next two weeks to make decisions on space allocations across programs and a draft programming schedule will be completed by mid-December.

The University of Chicago is providing technical support to help us work through these details and operationalize the schedule. Some of the challenges to be worked out include quarantine dormitory space, COVID-19 testing (requirements, capacity, and cost), additional cleaning responsibilities, and the associated costs of each.

We recognize that with the current pandemic situation it is difficult to think about having a busier campus, but we are hoping for a better situation in the spring and summer. We are appreciative of the efforts of the visitor and space working groups who helped us to gather this essential information and will continue to keep you updated on our progress.

Thank you,

Paul Speer
Chief Operating Officer

October 9: Calendar Year 2021 Planning

Dear Colleagues,

While the MBL has successfully mitigated the spread of coronavirus on our campus to date, the pandemic has upended our research and education programs, in particular the 2020 Advanced Research Training Courses and Whitman Scientist programs.

As we look toward 2021, it is critical that we resume as many research and education activities as possible while following all public health guidelines that have been established to limit the spread of COVID-19. To accomplish this goal, we have launched a significant planning process for calendar year 2021.

Fueled by the knowledge that we’ve gained from recent planning of the UChicago Autumn Quarter 2020 courses at the MBL, but cognizant of the unique challenges of our advanced training courses and Whitman programs, we’ve assembled two working groups to assess and analyze capacity and space required for safely expanding on-campus activities in 2021:

  • Visitor Working Group – will assess and develop a comprehensive list of the various visitor constituencies coming to campus and space utilization for each group
  • Space Capacity & Expansion Working Group – will analyze space capacities (e.g. housing, dining, lab, lecture/meeting, childcare, etc.) and explore expanded on-campus space options to meet visitor demand

All planning will adhere to public health guidelines and testing capacities and will rely on support from the University of Chicago.

Over the next month, the working groups will assess baseline capacity and demand and will consider ways to add capacity in areas of shortfall. Paul Speer and I will provide you with more detailed information on capacity for your own planning purposes in early November. A preliminary operational plan will be completed in early December. In the meantime, please reach out Linda Hyman, Burroughs Wellcome Director of Education at lhyman@mbl.edu or David Mark Welch, Director of the Division of Research at dmarkwelch@mbl.edu with questions or concerns.

Thank you for your continued commitment to the MBL. We are looking forward to expanding activities on our campus to meet our mission of providing transformative education and research opportunities that are a hallmark of the MBL experience.

Sincerely,

Nipam H. Patel
Director

May 13: 2020 Whitman Center Program

Dear Colleagues,

The MBL continues to comply fully with the ‘stay at home’ advisory issued by Governor Charles Baker. The Governor is expected to announce plans for a phased reopening of the state early next week, and MBL Director Nipam Patel is in discussions with local and state officials about a phased reopening of the Woods Hole research community.

Within these guidelines MBL leadership (in conjunction with University of Chicago) is developing a plan for a coordinated, phased return to campus operations that emphasizes the health and safety of the MBL community.

At this time, the earliest date we would be able to welcome Whitman scientists to campus is July 6th. However, it is important to emphasize that a great deal of uncertainty remains in the state’s planning and ours as well. Therefore, you should continue to monitor the MBL’s website for information and we will continue to send out regular updates. Housing reservations will be cancelled for the month of June and you will be contacted by our office to update reservation dates.

As always, should you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us directly.

David Mark Welch, Director of Research
Dana Mock-Muñoz de Luna, Senior Administrator, Division of Research

April 2: MBL Children’s Camp Update

In recent weeks, the MBL has taken a number of measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health and safety of our entire community. Among them has been the difficult decisions to cancel our spring and early summer educational programs. To that end, the MBL children’s summer camp has also been cancelled for the months of June and July. At the present time, we are assessing the feasibility of providing programming for the month of August. A second notification will be posted when that decision is made. If you have questions, contact Christopher Morgan-Janes at cmorgan-janes@mbl.edu.

Christopher Morgan-Janes
Stewart-Moore Director of Children’s Programs

March 20: Update on COVID-19 to Whitman Center Scientists

Dear Whitman Scientists,

I hope that you, your families, and colleagues are safe and healthy.  I am writing to update you on the Marine Biological Laboratory’s plans for the Whitman Center program during the COVID-19 crisis.  At the moment, the MBL is open and research staff are active, although at reduced levels on campus.  If circumstances force us to close, we will maintain a small number of essential staff to care for animals and essential equipment, but it will not be possible to conduct laboratory research. All buildings are locked and a 2020 MBL ID is necessary to gain access to campus facilities.

While it is impossible to know what will happen in the next few months, it is clear that everyone’s research program will be severely impacted.

  • If you prefer to defer your Whitman Center lab rental to 2021, you may do so at this time. You will need to re-register, as usual, by December 15, 2020. Your current registration will be cancelled and you will not incur rental or housing charges for this year.
  • If you plan to come to the MBL during the 2020 season, we may need to delay your arrival depending on circumstances.  Scientists who have registered to arrive in April or May will need to postpone their arrival to at least June as all on-campus facilities (housing and dining services specifically) will be shut down during that time.
  • ***Please notify your lab assistants, associates and grad students of any changes in plans with regard to your time at MBL (ie: new dates, cancellations etc).***

We will need to work together on arrangements that ensure the health and safety of your group and the rest of the MBL community.  It is likely that not all research facilities and services will be available, and MBL dining and housing may also be affected.  The situation may change quickly at any time before or after your arrival on campus.  We therefor ask for your patience and understanding as we navigate these unprecedented circumstances.

Please communicate your plans to Dana Mock-Muñoz de Luna (dmock@mbl.edu) as soon as possible.  We look forward to hearing from you and wish you all the best during these challenging times.

With kind regards,

Nipam Patel
MBL Director

March 20: Update on COVID-19 to Whitman Center Fellows

Dear Whitman Fellows,

I hope that you, your families, and colleagues are safe and healthy.  I am writing to update you on the Marine Biological Laboratory’s plans for the Whitman Fellowship program during the COVID-19 crisis.  At the moment, the MBL is open and research staff are active, although at reduced levels on campus.  If circumstances force us to close, we will maintain a small number of essential staff to care for animals and essential equipment, but it will not be possible to conduct laboratory research.

While it is impossible to know what will happen in the next few months, it is clear that everyone’s research program will be severely impacted.

  • If you prefer to defer your Whitman Fellowship to 2021, you may do so at this time. We will need a brief statement of interest updating the Selection Committee on your proposal by December 15, 2020.
  • If you plan to come to the MBL during the 2020 season, we may need to delay your arrival depending on circumstances.  Fellows who have registered to arrive in April or May will need to postpone their arrival as all on-campus facilities (housing and dining services) will be shut down during that time.

We will need to work together on arrangements that ensure the health and safety of your group and the rest of the MBL community.  It is likely that not all research facilities and services will be available, and MBL dining and housing may also be affected.  The situation may change quickly at any time before or after your arrival on campus.  We therefor ask for your patience and understanding as we navigate these unprecedented circumstances.

Please communicate your fellowship plans to Dana Mock-Muñoz de Luna (dmock@mbl.edu) as soon as possible.  We look forward to hearing from you and wish you all the best during these challenging times.

With kind regards,

Nipam Patel
MBL Director

 

March 4: Update on COVID-19 to Whitman Center Scientists

Dear colleague,

The MBL is carefully monitoring the ongoing coronavirus outbreak situation. Our authoritative sources of information (likely similar to your home institution’s) are the CDC and the state health department, in our case the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MA DPH). In addition because of our affiliation with the University of Chicago, we are able to take advantage of their resources and expertise. We are also extending our existing emergency response plans to cover the specific ongoing situation. While we expect travel cancellations of individuals coming from severely affected overseas locations, there are no travel restrictions within the US at this time and no broad US-wide directives or guidance regarding cancelling gatherings (i.e. in schools, conferences, athletic events etc.) or recommendations regarding social distancing. The MA DPH assesses that the risk to the public from COVID-19 remains low in the state. As a result, the MBL is planning to hold all of its scheduled programs etc. at this time. This is, of course, subject to change depending on how things evolve but these are our current plans. We will continue to update you on a regular basis.

Dana Mock-Muñoz de Luna
Senior Administrator, Division of Research