Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Intelligent Machines

James Bellingham '84, SM '84, PhD '88

Monterey Bay Aquarium chief technologist brings ocean science to the public

In 1994, ocean scientist Jim Bellingham and his research team were plying the Arctic Ocean, working with autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), when a blade snapped off one of them, leaving only one functioning blade—and no spares.

“One of the guys used the remaining blade to make a cast, and then he made a new propeller out of epoxy stiffened with tie wraps,” Bellingham says. “I love working with smart, creative people.”

Fortunately for Bellingham, his world is full of them. As chief technologist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, he keeps abreast of emerging questions in ocean science and considers strategies for finding the answers.

This story is part of the January/February 2012 Issue of the MIT News Magazine
See the rest of the issue
Subscribe

“I spend a large fraction of my time learning about new research projects and meeting people with new ideas,” he says. “My day might involve meeting with the engineers who are designing and building our newest [autonomous underwater] vehicle, or meeting with research colleagues to plan an upcoming field program, or just brainstorming new concepts.”

Another great way to stay on top of research trends is to serve on advisory and review committees, he says: “Sounds boring, but I love it!” He is on science advisory boards at the University of Bremen in Germany, at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Washington state, and at MIT’s Center for Environmental Sensing and Modeling in Singapore, to name a few. He also remains active with Bluefin Robotics, the marine robotics company he cofounded in 1997 that is now owned by Battelle, a global research company.

Before starting Bluefin, Bellingham was a founder and lab manager of MIT’s Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Laboratory and a lecturer in MIT’s ocean engineering department.

“This work has held my attention because [the ocean] is such a diverse and complex environment and so very poorly understood,” he says. “The great challenge of this century will be learning to live on an increasingly crowded planet without destroying it,” he says. “And we are unlikely to be successful without a much, much better understanding of our oceans.”

Bellingham and his wife, Deborah, live in Corral de Tierra, California, with their two daughters—Sarah, 20, and Elizabeth, 16. Scientific aptitude seems to run in the family; in science fairs, Sarah has presented a project examining language acquisition and Elizabeth has investigated germs in bottled water.

Want to go ad free? No ad blockers needed.

Become an Insider
Already an Insider? Log in.
Next in MIT News
Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Plus.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    Print + Digital Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

    Technology Review PDF magazine archive, including articles, images, and covers dating back to 1899

    10% Discount to MIT Technology Review events and MIT Press

    Ad-free website experience

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.