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MBA celebrates 140 years of bio-breakthroughs


The MBA HQ and laboratories in Plymouth
The Marine Biological Association HQ and laboratories in Plymouth

The Plymouth-based Marine Biological Association (MBA) was established in Victorian times, making it one of the world's longest-running societies dedicated to promoting the oceans and marine-life research – and 2024 is the year it celebrates its 140th anniversary.  

The MBA says that its team of marine biologists have conducted groundbreaking studies covering everything from micro-organisms to apex marine predators, not only expanding understanding of the marine ecosystem but offering insights into the impacts of human activities on marine life.

That team has included some of the brightest minds in the field, it says, as evidenced by the fact that seven Nobel Laureates have carried out their research at the MBA. These include Sir Alan Hodgkin and Sir Andrew Huxley, who were jointly awarded the physiology prize in 1963 for discovering in the MBA laboratories how nerve-cells transmit signals in squid. 

The MBA is also home to the Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR) Survey, the longest-running and most geographically extensive marine plankton sampling programme in the world.

In 2021 the plankton survey celebrated its 90th anniversary, and the association says it has helped shape scientific understanding about the ocean health, and how marine life is changing in response to pressures such as climate change.

The CPR had already received a Guinness World Record title the previous year, for the greatest distance ever sampled by a marine survey – more than 7 million nautical miles.

In 2013, the MBA was granted a Royal Charter in recognition of its long and eminent history and status.

“Building upon its rich legacy, the association continues to strive for excellence in marine research, education, and conservation,” commented chief executive Prof Willie Watson. “With the ever-increasing challenges facing our ocean, the work of the association remains as crucial as ever in safeguarding the marine environment for future generations.”

The association has set up a 140th Anniversary webpage

Also read: Largest seagrass planting effort begins in Plymouth Sound, Seagrass project success in Plymouth Sound, Diver discovers treasures from Plymouth Pier, Rare blue lobster released in Plymouth Sound

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