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'Genius Grants' Go To Two Tufts Graduates

'Genius Grants' Go To Two Tufts GraduatesThe John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation recently awarded $500,000 grants to two Tufts graduates for their unique and innovative work as an author/illustrator and a deep-sea explorer.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [09.25.06] Naturalist David Carroll and deep-sea explorer Edith Widder won’t soon forget the day they got “the call” from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. By phone, the two Tufts graduates learned that they had each earned a $500,000 “genius grant” for their unique and ambitious work in their respective fields. Carroll, a lifelong illustrator and artist, was ecstatic.

“It’s such an affirmation,” Carroll, who earned a degree in fine arts from Tufts in 1965, told the Associated Press.

Carroll and Widder are among 25 new MacArthur Fellows—ranging from doctors to musicians to journalists—who have “a kind of boldness and cutting edge,” Daniel J. Socolow, the Foundation’s director of fellow programs, recently told The New York Times. Each received a five-year, unrestricted grant, which the Foundation says is “intended to encourage people of outstanding talent to pursue their own creative, intellectual and professional inclinations.”

Self-PortraitwithTurtlesFor Carroll, a New Hampshire native and father of three who has, at times, struggled to make ends meet, the award is an opportunity for him to delve deeper into his studies of the ecology of New England. An author and illustrator of several books, including Self-Portrait with Turtles, Carroll has written about the lives of freshwater turtles and other animals that inhabit swamps and wetlands.

“To be able to look ahead and know that I have a period of time to focus mainly on creative efforts and not the daily staying afloat that most of us have…enables my concentration on expanding my creative efforts,” he told the AP.

Widder, who earned a bachelor’s degree from Tufts in 1973, is also looking forward to putting the grant money to good use. A biologist and deep-sea explorer, Widder founded the nonprofit Ocean Research and Conservation Association (Ocean Recon) and currently serves as president of the Florida-based organization.

“This money couldn’t have come at a better time,” Widder told USA Today. “Our lofty goal is to become the premier marine organization in the U.S.”

Prior to founding Ocean Recon in 2005, Widder was a senior scientist and director of the Bioluminescence Department at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution in Ft. Pierce, Fla. While there, she helped to design Eye in the Sea (EITS), a remotely operated camera system that sits on the sea floor and automatically detects and measures the bioluminescence given off by nearby organisms, such as jellyfish and sharks.

“What thrills me is the MacArthur Foundation’s focus on helping us find critically needed solutions to some of the most pressing conservation challenges facing our ocean,” Widder said in an Ocean Recon statement.



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