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WHOI Scientist Honored As Blind Employee of the Year in Massachusetts

Amy Bower

May 15, 2003

Dr. Amy Bower of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) will be honored today with the Thomas J. Carroll Award for Employment as Blind Employee of the Year in Massachusetts by The Carroll Center for the Blind in Newton, MA.

Bower is one of six individuals to be honored at the presentation of the twentieth annual Carroll Awards, sponsored by The Carroll Center for the Blind and the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind. The Carroll Awards acknowledge the outstanding achievements of individuals who are blind or visually impaired.

Bower, legally blind as a result of macular degeneration, studies ocean currents as a tenured associate scientist in the Institution’s Physical Oceanography Department. She has conducted field research on ocean circulation in the North Atlantic and Indian Oceans and analyzes data in her laboratory using adaptive technology, including special computer software and devices to magnify text. She uses a closed-circuit television system that magnifies printed material onto a monitor and an optical scanner that transfers print into digital information on the computer screen.

A native of Rockport, MA, Bower received a BS degree in physics from Tufts University in 1981. She was diagnosed at age 24 with macular degeneration. The macula allows us to read normal-sized print, recognize faces and colors, drive, and see objects in fine detail, and its deterioration seriously impairs these activities. At the time of her diagnosis, she was a doctoral candidate at the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography, where she completed a PhD degree in oceanography in 1988. She joined the WHOI staff that same year as a postdoctoral scholar and was appointed a tenured scientist at the Institution in 1999. While maintaining her research programs at the Institution, Bower recently assumed the Doherty Chair in Ocean Studies at the nearby Sea Education Association in Falmouth, working with faculty to enhance educational programs.

An outdoor enthusiast, Bower has been active in support groups for the visually impaired, including Ski for Light, a volunteer program begun in 1975 to promote cross-country skiing among the blind and visually impaired. Her husband, David Fisichella, is one of the group’s sighted guides. The couple also sail a 37-foot Tartan modified to assist Bower with navigation equipment, and recently organized a Sail for Light program in Cambridge for visually impaired and blind sailors.

About The Carroll Center for the Blind
The Carroll Center is a private, non-profit agency that serves the needs of individuals who are blind or have visual impairments by providing rehabilitation, skills training, and educational opportunities to achieve independence, self-sufficiency, and self-fulfillment and by educating the public regarding the potential of persons who are blind and visually-impaired.

About WHOI
WHOI is a private, independent marine research and engineering, and higher education organization located in Falmouth, MA. Its primary mission is to understand the oceans and their interaction with the Earth as a whole, and to communicate a basic understanding of the ocean’s role in the changing global environment. Established in 1930 on a recommendation from the National Academy of Sciences, the Institution is organized into five departments, interdisciplinary institutes and a marine policy center, and conducts a joint graduate education program with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.