USM Narratives - Aquaculture and Marine Sciences
Studying Algae Blooms in Patagonia
Thanks to a grant from the National Science Foundation, two USM graduate students, Heather Anne Wright and Kate Callnan, spent a month off the Uruguay coast conducting research on algae blooms with Dr. William Balch, a chief scientist at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in West Boothbay Harbor, Maine.
USM biology professor Lisa Moore, whose own marine research originally attracted Wright and Callnan to USM, initiated the 30-day cruise off the Patagonian shelf, which gave the students a rare opportunity to study one of the world’s largest recurring algae blooms.
The students collected samples to examine the distribution of picophytoplankton (microscopic plankton cells) as well as their response to ocean acidification in incubation studies aboard the ship. Phytoplankton are any drifting organisms in the ocean that photosynthesize, thus providing a source of food to other aquatic organisms like krill, fish, and whales.
The students’ work was part of a larger project investigating the effects of ocean acidification—one of the symptoms of global climate change—on larger phytoplankton.
Connecting Educators to Habitat Restoration
This summer, USM participated in a National Science Foundation program that provides K-12 teachers nationwide an opportunity to participate in ocean, polar, and environmental science research and peer mentoring.
Teresa Gable, a science teacher, was matched with USM professor Dr. Karen Wilson to conduct field research for two weeks on habitat restoration projects in Maine. Gable assisted Wilson at Sherman Marsh in Newcastle, a salt marsh that was a shallow freshwater lake from the 1930s to 2005. Wilson is monitoring the change in vegetation and other organisms as the marsh transitions from freshwater to a saltwater environment.
The ARMADA Project administered through the University of Rhode Island accepts applications from teachers across the country seeking to become “Master Teachers,” who develop ways to bring the results of their research experiences back to the classroom. Upon their return, they mentor new teachers in their school district and share experiences with others.
According to Wilson, the project is a great way for area school groups to get involved with local science projects, and a great way to encourage mentoring between undergraduates in the lab and someone in the real world.
Unlocking the Secrets of Rocks
USM professors Mark Swanson and Matthew Bampton mentor undergraduates each summer on an adventure-based field program to conduct leading geological research on the rocky coast of Maine. This highly competitive, paid internship program is funded through a Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program grant from the National Science Foundation.
With access to one of the nation’s best-equipped precision digital mapping labs, and USM’s first-rate Geographic Information System (GIS), the team has focused its research on the regional deformational effects of the Norumbega Fault System, a sideways moving zone of shear running through Maine and one of the main features of the Northern Appalachians.
The group has kayaked to and camped on numerous Maine islands while conducting their research. Work on Seguin Island, for example, has sought to record the patterns of granite intrusions (light-colored rock formed by magma injections) and the detailed folded patterns in the layered rocks that make up the island. Over the years, the students have created an interactive computer display on the island that allows viewers to see the geologic details in the surrounding area.
Uncovering Bones on Maine Islands
USM research assistant Ingrid Brack and USM archeologist and associate professor Nathan Hamilton are using archaeological bones to help Dr. Lew Incze of the Gulf of Maine Area Program Census of Marine Life develop an extensive database of marine fauna in the Gulf of Maine, which extends from Cape Cod to Nova Scotia. The database will be used to understand the trends in the abundance of different species over time and space.
Over the course of a few years, Professor Hamilton and his USM students have collected over 75,000 pieces of bone from islands off the Maine coast—some as much as 4,500 years old. Current emphasis is on the Isles of Shoals with a field school run through the Shoals Marine Laboratory.
They are also exploring aspects of prehistoric marine ecology with stable isotope analysis of fish and sea bird bones under the technical supervision of Dr. Beverly Johnson, Associate Professor of Geology at Bates College. Johnson, who is exploring the role of fish in the food chain, lacks data from the first 300 years of European colonization of North America. Significant ecological changes took place during this time, and data from the Isle of Shoals and Malaga Island may hold the key.