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Provasoli-Guillard National Center for Marine Algae and Microbiota (NCMA)


The NCMA originated from private culture collections established by Dr. Luigi Provasoli at Yale University and Dr. Robert (Bob) R. L. Guillard at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (Bob Guillard’s 90th birthday was featured in: Andersen, R.A. 2011. Celebrating Bob Guillard’s 90th. Phycological Newsletter 47(2): 10-12.), and was originally called the Culture Collection of Marine Phytoplankton (CCMP). Initially, algal cultures of scientific interest or for aquaculture were generously provided to colleagues, thereby fostering research on marine phytoplankton, but . in time, the task of maintaining and distributing cultures became too large.

In March 1980, the Biological Oceanography Program of the National Science Foundation supported a workshop at the University of Rhode Island entitled "Workshop on Recommendations for the Establishment of Marine Phytoplankton Culture Collections". The participants were academic scientists and representatives from the aquaculture industry, American Type Culture Collection, Environmental Protection Agency, and National Science Foundation. The workshop concluded by recommending the establishment of a single, national collection for marine phytoplankton managed by Dr. Bob Guillard. A National Science Foundation grant was awarded to provide partial financial support and an Advisory Committee was appointed.

Initially, the collection was housed at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Massachusetts. In the autumn of 1981, Dr. Bob Guillard and Jeff Brown (curator at the NCMA from 2007-2016) drove the Collection to Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, Maine. In 1985, the facility was changed from a "Collection" to a "Center" to reflect the wider service-orientated mission of the facility. When the Center was established, it was named in honor of Dr. Luigi Provasoli and Dr. Bob Guillard as a tribute to their many and lasting contributions to the culture of marine phytoplankton. For additional early history of the NCMA (when it was named CCMP), see Guillard (1988).

In 1989, Dr. Bob Guillard was named Director Emeritus and Dr. Robert A. Andersen was appointed Director. The first published strain catalog was printed in 1991 (Andersen et al. 1991), and in 1992 the Provasoli-Guillard Center for Culture of Marine Phytoplankton was named a National Center and Facility by the U.S. Congress (Public Law 102-587, Oceans Act of 1992). The Center was re-named as the Provasoli-Guillard National Center for Culture of Marine Phytoplankton to acknowledge its official national standing. The CCMP established its first website in 1996, and it also began providing large scale cultures and DNA to scientists. The CCMP began cryopreserving its strains in 1996, and a second catalog of strains was published in 1997 (Andersen et al. 1997). 

In 2009, Dr Andersen was named the second Director Emeritus and Dr. Willie Wilson was appointed as Interim Director, a position he maintained for 1-year until his full appointment to Director in July 2010. Under his direction, the CCMP was renamed the Provasoli-Guillard National Center for Marine Algae and Microbiota (NCMA) in October 2011. The addition of microbiota to the collection and name seemed especially fitting given Luigi Provasoli’s discoveries over 50 years ago that many algae require associations with bacteria to grow normally. The 2011 Algal Biomass Organization’s (ABO) Summit in Minneapolis, Minnesota was the occasion for the formal announcement of a new name for the CCMP. Now called the Provasoli-Guillard National Center for Marine Algae and Microbiota, or NCMA, the change reflects addition of bacteria and archaea (an ancient form of bacteria) to the Center, making it one of the world’s first integrated collections of these incredibly abundant, but little known, life forms. Despite the name change, the CCMP identifier remained on all algal strains, ensuring continuity with current, past, and future phytoplankton research. Dr.Wilson left Bigelow Laboratory in 2014, succeeded by Dr. Michael W. Lomas.

NCMA/CCMP Staff Over the Years


Robert R.L. GuillardDirector Emeritus1981-1989
Robert A. AndersenDirector Emeritus1989-2009
William H. WilsonDirector Emeritus2010-2013
Michael W. LomasDirector2014-present


Rhonda Selvin1983-1990
Dean Jacobson1990-1993
Steve Brett1994-1996
Steve Morton1996-1998
Doug Phinney2002-2004
Julie Sexton1989-2018


Associate Curators:

Kristin Heidenreich2019-present
Joan Blanchette2017-2021
Mark Hurd2016-present

Assistant Curators:  

Jeff Brown2007-2016
Isaiah Lary2008-2009
Tracey Riggens1982-1986, 1998-2016
Laura Livingston1986-1988
Maureen Keller1981-1992
Olivia Barberi2021-present


When algal strains are deposited at the NCMA, they are assigned a number prefixed by the CCMP identifier; this becomes the algae strain’s official reference (e.g., CCMP332). Many scientific journals require researchers to deposit strains and officially identify new algae this way; it ensures that future scientists from anywhere in the world can conduct comparative work on the same strain.

In the new naming convention microbiota added to the Center’s portfolio, will have the following prefixes: NCMA-B, for bacteria; or NCMA-A, for archaea—followed by a systematic numbering as new isolates.  

A big question, however, is why the last “M” is left out of the acronym. To be honest, we just didn’t like NCMAM! The more pragmatic reason was simply that in the new naming convention for microbiota added to the Center’s portfolio, the prefix will either be NCMA-B, for bacteria; NCMA-V, for viruses; or NCMA-A, for archaea—followed by a systematic numbering as new isolates. Algal naming conventions remain the same, with the CCMP prefix, to assure continuity.


NCMA relocated from its antiquated site on McKown Point, West Boothbay Harbor to the Norton Ocean Microbiome and Blue Biotechnology Center at Bigelow Laboratory’s new Ocean Science and Education Campus in East Boothbay, in November 2011. Its new home now provides modern, spacious, and secure facilities for large growth chambers with increased algal growth capacity, a research laboratory, back-up and cryopreservation facilities.

Center for Algal Innovation (CAI)

In 2017 a pilot-scale research greenhouse facility was completed with support from Maine Technology Institute (MTI funds), a low interest loan from the Maine Community Foundation’s Farms, Fisheries and Food Fund, and an anonymous donor. The greenhouse facility was built on the Bigelow Laboratory campus as a Bigelow research asset and can grow enough algae, up to 25,000 L, to explore new commercial algal-based products. This new research infrastructure is a key element of the Center for Algal Innovation. Because of the quantity of algae that can be produced, one of our goals in the CAI is to develop algal standards by providing a consistent source of material. These standards could range from mock-community genome standards to algal toxin standards to algal pigment standards that could be implemented by NASA-based ocean color investigators to other metabolite standards. Such standards are critical for research and product development so there is a basis upon which to measure quality, composition, and other features. Other goals are the development of commercial partnerships and the pilot scale development of production technology that can be designed from tech transfer to 3rd party companies.

In addition to the new algal greenhouse growth facility, our customers can collaborate with other facilities at Bigelow Laboratory such as: 

I. Single Cell Genomics Center (SCGC)

SCGC® offers a comprehensive suite of single cell genomics services, from single cell separation through genome sequencing and bioinformatics. SCGC® also provides advice on environmental sample collection and storage protocols and post-sequencing analyses (customized services).


II. The J. J. MacIsaac Center for Aquatic Cytometry

The facility for aquatic cytometry uses innovative new technologies to advance the study of aquatic microbes and algae in marine and freshwater systems for the development of new applications and stains, routine cell counting, cell sorting, for environmental flow cytometric training and in-situ field samples can be analyzed on site and data sets compiled for long-term monitoring and assessment of environmental changes.


III. Bigelow Analytical Services Center

The state-of-the-art facility provides analytical services to public and private entities. This advanced technology is available to local, national, and international researchers in all fields of study including marine chemistry, aquaculture, pharmacy, and fisheries. Bigelow Analytical Services include: HPLC (including photodiode array and fluorescence detection and post-column oxidation approaches), LC-QQQ-MS (LC with triple-quadrupole mass-spectrometer), LC-TOF-MS (LC with time-of-flight mass spectrometer, including DART ion source), EA-IRMS (elemental analyser coupled to an isotope ratio mass spectrometry), Confocal microscope, Scanning electron microscope, Nutrient analyses:nitrate, nitrite, silicate, phosphate, and ammonia.


IV. Seawater Suite

The Seawater Suite is a continuously flowing seawater system with both filtered seawater as well as raw seawater. All water is pumped through the facility by different types and sizes of pumps. There are multiple sized vessels that enable to tailor the experiment to the hypothesis. This system is partially powered by a solar system that has the capability to produce up to 20 KW of energy.


V. Industrial Colloboration

The Industrial Collaboration Laboratory (ICL), is a 550 square-foot, glass-enclosed showcase laboratory (with 180 square-feet of associated office space) that is available for entrepreneurial activities both within and outside of Bigelow Laboratory, fostering collaboration with the private sector and facilitating partnerships with companies in the pharmaceutical, aquaculture, environmental/bioremediation, analytical instrument, and biofuels industries.




Andersen, R.A. 2011. Celebrating Bob Guillard’s 90th. Phycological Newsletter 47(2): 10-12.

Andersen, R.A., Morton, S.L., and Sexton, J.P. 1997. CCMP - Provasoli-Guillard National Center for Culture of Marine Phytoplankton 1997 list of strains. J. Phycol. 33 (suppl): 1-75

Andersen, R.A., Jacobson, D.M., and Sexton, J.P. 1991. Provasoli-Guillard Center for Culture of Marine Phytoplankton Catalog of Strains - 1991. West Boothbay Harbor, ME USA. 98 pp.

Guillard, R.R.L. 1988. The Center for Culture of Marine Phytoplankton: History, Structure, Function and Future. J.Protozool. 35: 255-256.