Oceanographer, Author, Sailor, and BIOS Trustee

Linda Glover

In the late 1970s, Linda Glover visited BIOS, then the Bermuda Biological Station for Research, for the first time. “I had visited marine research labs in many countries, but I was particularly charmed by the beauty of BIOS and Bermuda,” Glover said. Decades later, she received “an entirely unexpected call from the chairman of the BIOS board, Michael Naess, asking if I would like to become a trustee.” She had worked with Naess and another trustee, John Knauss, in the 1980s when they served on the U.S. Presidential Ocean Policy Commission. “While very flattered by the offer, I was still working at the time for the United States government and accepting the board position would have created a conflict of interest,” she said.

She was so disappointed to decline an opportunity to reconnect with real seagoing ocean science, and with Bermuda, that she “rather abruptly decided to take early retirement and called Naess back to accept the trustee position.”

“He was convinced the place was an absolute gem that needed to progress out of what he called its ‘sleepy backwater complacency’ to reach the place it deserved in the international ocean science world,” she said. “I promised him that I would help, and I think I have.”

What have you been especially proud of during your involvement on the board at BIOS?
: Well, that one is easy. It was the new ship. Upon joining the board, I asked to serve on the science committee and the ship operations committee, because I was excited to reconnect to my early career days of seagoing research science. I quickly found myself as chair of the ship operations committee and delved into the issues and numbers. The major issue was a proposal to lengthen the existing ship, the Weatherbird II, by 20 feet to make her more seaworthy in the winter months.

At the time, there was an external review committee assessing the Institute, but the first draft of their report did not include a look at ship operations. Knowing several of the review committee members, I asked them to do so, and their final recommendations were emphatic on not lengthening the ship, but instead acquiring a larger vessel that could handle the important time-series data collection year-round.

The marine superintendent at the time, Lee Black, found the perfect vessel, seaworthy enough for year-round operations off Bermuda, but also small enough to get through Ferry Reach to dock at the Institute. At a fundraising gala, a few trustees, particularly Rob Cawthorn and Billy Williams, asked questions about a larger ship. In the end, they made the new ship and the new dock happen. It was an exciting time. I negotiated approvals from the U.S. government and their research ship operations committee for the increased funding necessary to operate a larger ship at BIOS. I negotiated the purchase of the ship and I helped to oversee her modifications on monthly visits with BIOS management to the shipyard.

The Atlantic Explorer is a beauty. She is a very capable research ship that has brought more scientists to BIOS who wish to do their own research at our time-series sites. Work on the ship has also been complemented by our fleet of underwater gliders at BIOS.

What lessons did you apply to your efforts at BIOS after 38 years of work with the U.S. Federal Government?
Glover: At age 17, I began working in a U.S. Naval Oceanographic Office lab, and continued work there while earning a chemistry degree from Duke University. The ongoing debate at the time on seafloor spreading, continental drift, and plate tectonics prompted me to take graduate courses in marine geology and enter that field. During my time at the Navy lab, I improved lab techniques, designed shipboard labs on the new class of ships, and went to sea in 1968 to train others on doing lab work at sea. My career was quite varied, from publishing science and negotiating international agreements to managing Navy acquisition programs, and I loved it all.

As chair of the BIOS marine operations committee for 13 years, there were quite a few times that my government background came in handy. I had the contacts to help get approval for operational funding for a larger ship at BIOS, as well as the contacts to support purchase of the ship. When a new set of U.S. regulations required onerous and expensive security measures, I was able to arrange a meeting with a Coast Guard Admiral and allow the BIOS marine superintendent at the time, Ron Harelstad, to present reasons why BIOS should be exempted. In well-honed bureaucratic fashion, I presented the Admiral with the draft of a letter for him to sign and we got what we needed. There were quite a few other issues that my government background and contacts helped resolve, and I was always happy to assist when BIOS management asked.

How did you initially become interested in the ocean?
Glover: For years our family spent two weeks every summer on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. One rainy weekend, we decided to visit the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). It was a misty evening as we walked down the wet street for dinner. Just before we reached the bridge, we came upon a research vessel, her generator thrumming, lights blazing, and young scientists climbing the gangway with their gear.

I ran over and asked the scientists, “Where are you going? What are you doing? Can I come?” I was 11 years old. One of the fellows, on his way up the gangway, said, “Come back in a few years and maybe you can come along.” Though I never sailed in a WHOI ship, I did spend a decade sailing in research ships for Duke University, the Navy, and NOAA.

How does your firm, GloverWorks Consulting, fit into your interests with the ocean?
Glover: It’s just me in the company I founded, and for 15 years I’ve had the freedom to choose among the projects that come to me. One of the more interesting endeavors was working for Google to provide the seafloor database that underpins the “Ocean Layer” in Google Earth. Another was writing two books for National Geographic. The first was an encyclopedia of space, which was their best-selling book for several years. Then I co-authored an atlas of the ocean with oceanographer Sylvia Earle. In a real break from my background, I worked for Conservation International to organize an international ocean conservation summit, and published a book based on the findings from the meeting. I have provided advice for Navy, defense, and intelligence programs where I worked before, and I continue to work with the Global Ocean Observing System, based in Paris, for whom I drafted their “Framework for Ocean Observing.” My consulting work is a real mixed bag, and that’s part of why it has been so much fun.