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Researchers - Karen Wilson

Assistant Research ProfessorWilson_Karen
Department of Environmental Science & Aquatic Systems Group
University of Southern Maine

Featured researcher on MPBN’s “Desperate Alewives” documentary

What problem/s are you working to solve?
We’re working to encourage the recovery of groundfish like cod and haddock by restoring populations of their prey fish—in this case, alewives that use Maine’s rivers and lakes to reproduce. Specifically, I’m working with our team members to investigate the socio-economic and ecological reasons why some rivers (for example, the Kennebec) are the focus of restoration efforts that benefit alewives, while others, such as the Androscoggin River, have attracted much less attention. We are interested in what factors dictate the ecological, economic, and social potentials for restoration and, similarly, what constraints exist that would limit restoration.

What progress are you making toward solutions?
My sub-team has spent two summers working with fishing guides on the Kennebec sampling the diets of predatory fish such as smallmouth bass and striped bass in the river and cod in the ocean, and, in the process, learning a lot about the fishing guides, their business, and their ideas of why the fishing is the way it is. For example, striped bass fishing has been slow the past few years, enough so that some guides have switched to guiding exclusively for smallmouth bass.

How could your findings contribute to a more sustainable future in Maine and beyond?
We’re hoping our findings will provide a roadmap for the restoration of forage fish like alewives by showing connections between what we do in our rivers and lakes, and groundfish populations in our nearshore marine waters.

Why did you decide to join SSI?
This has been a great opportunity to do some useful, applied science with an interdisciplinary team of researchers and stakeholders.

What’s the best part about collaborating on SSI research projects?
Our colleagues and the opportunity to interact with folks who work on the water for a living.

Where’s your favorite place in Maine?
Most places wet, which means just about everywhere here in Maine. One of my very favorite wet places is a tiny salt marsh in a tiny cove next to a tiny brackish water pond, just downstream of a tiny sphagnum bog in Acadia National Park on Isle au Haut.

What’s your ultimate Maine experience?
Sailing on Penobscot Bay.

Mud season survival strategy?
Muck boots and dog towels.

What sustains you?
Air, sun, water, and good soil.

Additional information on Karen and her team

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