The Marine Biological Association celebrates the granting of a Royal Charter and the importance of marine biology

Written by Guy Baker, MBA

All life on Earth depends on the ocean. The question that is underlying much research into life in the seas is how they can satisfy mankind’s demands for resources whilst continuing to provide life support for planet Earth. The patron of the Marine Biological Association, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, joined a host of distinguished guests earlier in March to celebrate the granting of a Royal Charter to the Association and what this means for our work to increase understanding of the marine environment.

HRH The Duke of Edinburgh meets Sir Geoffrey Holland, President of the Marine Biological Association. Copyright Alex Farquhar

About the Marine Biological Association
The Marine Biological Association (MBA) is one of the world's oldest learned societies devoted to the advancement of marine biology, and it also runs a leading research laboratory in Plymouth. The MBA was awarded the Royal Charter in 2013 in recognition of its long and eminent history and its status in the field of marine biology. As a learned society with a large and varied membership, it can draw on a wide pool of expertise when representing the marine biological community to government and wider society. As an independent organisation, the MBA’s advice and views are recognized as being unbiased and authoritative, vital at a time when governments seek balance in managing the exploitation of our oceans. From a research perspective the organisation maintains an ethos of carrying out a mix of curiosity-driven and strategic research that addresses some of the most pressing issues in modern biology. The MBA’s commitment to education and training is reflected in a vibrant programme engaging the public, schools and universities. The MBA’s advanced training courses attract some of the world’s leading marine scientists.

Guests seated. Copyright Alex Farquhar

Why is the Royal Charter important?
Amidst talk of unprecedented change in the global environment, of tipping points and shifting regimes, the timing of the award of a Royal Charter to the MBA is significant. Our need to understand the oceans and communicate that understanding has never been more urgent: complexity across and between different scales; gaps in our knowledge of basic life processes, and prospects in biomedicine and biotechnology are just a few of the challenges and opportunities that the marine biological community must consider. Recognition by the state through the Royal Charter puts the MBA at the forefront in promoting marine biological research in these and other areas.

The Marine Biological Association's Royal Charter. From left to right: MBA Deputy Director Dr Matt Frost, Sir Geoffrey Holland, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, MBA Director Professor Colin Brownlee. Copyright Alex Farquhar

Looking outward
UK science is at the cutting edge of marine biological research but the message to the scientific community is we must continue to evolve, grow and collaborate if we are to answer new and pressing questions. Global scale issues require an international perspective and the MBA is committed to fostering international networks and infrastructures.
Renowned oceanographer, explorer and author Dr Sylvia Earle said “The Marine Biological Association is an organisation that has done so much in terms of exploring and understanding the ocean; the future is in the hands of those who understand the importance of the blue part of the planet”.

Society needs the knowledge gained through marine biology. As a Chartered body the MBA has the opportunity to lift the profile of marine biology and see its importance recognized both nationally and worldwide.

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