For the first time in almost seven years, the highly-regarded Large Pelagics Research Center affiliated with the University of Massachusetts no longer has a Gloucester address.
The center, which has performed groundbreaking and internationally acclaimed research on the spawning habits and habitats of Atlantic bluefin tuna, closed up shop Thursday at its most recent home — the Americold-owned building at 159 E. Main St. in East Gloucester.
Americold has been actively shopping the site for months and recently informed the center it would have to vacate its office space by the end of October. Molly Lutcavage, the founder and executive director of the center, and Tim Lam, an assistant research professor, didn't bother waiting until the end of the month.
"It's sad to think that we won't have a Gloucester presence anymore," Lutcavage said. "For now, I guess we'll be working out of our houses and garages."
The center has been forced to navigate some rough seas in the past few years, changing its affiliation within the University of Massachusetts system and being forced out of its original facility at Hodgkins Cove, where it had been housed since 2011.
In September 2015, the center's five-year affiliation ended with the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, forcing Lutcavage and her colleagues to vacate the center's original lab at Hodgkins Cove, which UMass-Amherst has retained for other purposes.
The LPRC, which by then had evolved to just Lutcavage and Lam, joined the School for the Environment at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. It ultimately landed office space in January 2016 at the East Gloucester site that also houses the National Fish & Seafood seafood processor.
At the time, Lutcavage was excited at the prospect of working with a cross section of ocean and research scientists within the School for the Environment.
But the state budget crunch during the past two years put a stranglehold on the UMass system's budget at the same time that demand for private sources of research funding far outstripped the supply.
"They're going to make lab space available to us this winter on (the UMass-Boston) campus and we're thankful for that," Lutcavage said. "But I think it's fair to say that our support from the university is pretty much used up and we've been sidelined."
While the LPRC might be done with Gloucester and its future now something of a mystery, Lutcavage said she and Lam are adamant about continuing their work.
"We're heading to Hawaii next week to present research," Lutcavage said. "We want to continue the work. It's important work and we're not giving up."
Contact Sean Horgan at 978-675-2714, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT