MDI Biological Laboratory

This Is Why: Joan Mansfield

  • August 18, 2021

I spent my summers on Mt. Desert Island as a child, and I loved (and still do!) hiking the island trails and combing the beaches.

At the end of high school, I worked at MDIBL for five weeks in the summer of 1969. We worked to extract a nerve substance from starfish legs and used it to get echinoderms to release clouds of sperm with which we fertilized sand dollar eggs. Under the microscope, I watched the eggs divide from one cell to two then into a ball of cells which would become an embryo.

It is remarkable that 50 years later, I still remember the excitement of watching the first division of the cell. That five weeks in the MDIBL lab kindled a lifelong interest in how organisms grow – I became a Pediatric Endocrinologist and worked with a research team to understand how the timing of the hormones of puberty altered growth in children.

My husband I have found being a Lab Partner is an easy way to feel good about our participation in supporting MDIBL throughout the year. In my lifetime, I have watched the lab grow from basic buildings equipped with only running water, saltwater tanks, and a good microscope, to a beautiful institution staffed by faculty scientists year-round. The lab creates a vibrant intellectual community on the island where passionate young people have their
first exposure to working in a science lab (as I did) and more advanced students can launch their careers.

Now as I watch my grandchildren investigate the tide pools, I hope that they will grow up to share my love for exploring and understanding the wonders of the living planet — perhaps one day they too will experience MDIBL’s uniqueness.

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