August 25, 2013

Cape Cod draws scientists for work, play

The Marine Biology Lab thrives every summer, thanks in part to housing and day-care programs.

By SEAN F. DRISCOLL Cape Cod Times

FALMOUTH, Mass. - When Natalie Boelman had the chance to spend a summer at the Marine Biological Laboratory working at the Ecosystems Center, it was a no-brainer. It meant discussing the ecological puzzles of the Alaskan tundra with mentors and collaborators just a few doors away instead of having them spread across the country.

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Scientist Natalie Boelman pushes her children, Aline Waldhauser, 6, and Nico Waldhauser, 4, on a tire swing behind their cottage at Woods Hole in Falmouth, Mass., on Aug. 15. “It’s like summer camp for all of us,” she said.

The Associated Press

That's what got her to Woods Hole. What keeps the scientist coming back each year from her home base at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in New York City is swimming with her children in the ocean, walking them to their summer camp in the morning and back home at night and dining as a family at the picnic table just steps away from their back door.

"The lifestyle is just really, really nice," she said, sitting on that very picnic table on a recent summer evening with her husband, Felix Waldhauser, and their children, Aline, 6, and Nico, 4. "It's like summer camp for all of us. But we can still get our work done."

Summer finds the Marine Biological Laboratory is at its busiest, swelling the private research institution's year-round head count of 300 scientists and staff to 1,500, including visiting scientists and researchers, students and faculty who come to MBL for some portion of the season.

Many, like Boelman, bring their families along for the ride. For them, MBL offers housing, including 66 two-bedroom loft-style cabins tucked off Oyster Pond Road, and day care for children up to age 12.

The facilities make it possible for scientists with families to come to MBL and conduct their research without enduring a summer-long separation. It also makes a memorable summer on Cape Cod for the families, creating an atmosphere of fun and learning that keeps future generations coming back to Woods Hole long after their parents' days in the lab are over.

Ann Stuart's son Jonathan Stuart-Moore, 30, was one of the self-professed Woods Hole brats who kept coming back. He and his fiancee, Megan Guiliano, are getting married in the village Sept. 8, despite living full time in North Carolina and South Dakota, respectively.

"He's very intensely bonded with this place," said Stuart, a neurophysiologist.

It doesn't take a leap of the imagination to figure out where he gets it. When Stuart was an undergraduate at Swarthmore College studying zoology, two of her fellow students were the sons of Haldan Keffer Hartline, a Nobel Prize-winning scientist and alumnus of the MBL summer program.

"They got him to come do a talk, and I was spellbound," she said. "I decided I was going to go and see this place for myself, which I did. After that, I decided I was going to do whatever was necessary to come and do my work here."

That path led her to study barnacle vision and led her back to MBL in 1973. She met her husband, John Moore, at MBL. He, too, was a neurophysiologist, but studying squid axons.

For 41 summers, the family has returned to Woods Hole. In most years, Stuart packed her lab at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill into a U-Haul and drove 750 miles to MBL for months of 12-hour days.

"It's just free of all the winter responsibilities," Stuart said of the summers. "You really get to work. You can work like mad. If you don't want to shop, you can pop over to the cafeteria, you can go to the Woods Hole market and get a piece of pizza. It's free of the responsibilities of academia, of sitting on committees, of doing teaching. It's just a marvelous time to work."

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