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Researchers - John Lichter

Samuel S. Butcher Associate Professor in the Natural Sciences, Bowdoin Collegelichter_john

Featured researcher on MPBN’s “Desperate Alewives” documentary

What problem/s are you working to solve?
We are addressing questions about the status of Maine’s rivers, estuaries, and nearshore marine ecosystems with respect to supporting coastal fisheries. Additionally, we seek to understand the process of ecological recovery in terms of the biophysical and social influences on the path and trajectory of recovery. We’re focusing on alewife restoration efforts in the Kennebec and Androscoggin rivers to explore these questions.

What progress are you making toward solutions?
We have two summer field seasons of data quantifying key ecological features of the Kennebec-Androscoggin system and have made use of data available through the Department of Marine Resources and other state agencies. We are developing bioeconomic models that will allow us to estimate the economic benefit of further ecological recovery.

How could your findings contribute to a more sustainable future in Maine and beyond?
By bringing information forward about the processes involved in ecological recovery, we will contribute to the understanding of key ecological and socioeconomic forces influencing the long-term sustainability of our rivers, estuaries, and coastal fisheries. For example, the aquatic vegetation and benthic food web in Merrymeeting Bay and the lower Kennebec estuary appear to be recovering over the past few decades. There is still plenty of room for improvement, but understanding how juvenile anadromous fish like alewives respond to improvement in their aquatic habitat and food sources may identify key ingredients of long-term sustainability of coastal fisheries.

Why did you decide to join SSI?
The idea of engaging stakeholders to conduct applied science is brilliant. Doing so may facilitate sustainable management, as stakeholders who make their living from our natural resources have an opportunity to contribute to collecting data that potentially informs policy. We saw SSI as a terrific opportunity to expand research that we were already doing and interact with many other researchers in Maine.

What’s the best part about collaborating on SSI research projects?
The interdisciplinary aspect of SSI research affords many learning opportunities for all of us. The mix of natural and social scientists making up SSI will be especially fruitful.

Where’s your favorite place in Maine?
Merrymeeting Bay and the Kennebec estuary.

What’s your ultimate Maine experience?
Canoeing or kayaking in the Kennebec or other Maine rivers.

Mud season survival strategy?
Listen, to work in Merrymeeting Bay, you have to embrace mud.  The intertidal flats are generally topped with a thick layer of mud.

What sustains you?
Interesting and challenging questions, of which our project has supplied an abundance.

Additional information on John and his SSI team

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