AquEOUS – Aquaculture Experiential Opportunities for Undergraduate STUDENTS

Integrating Indigenous and Western Science through Applied Aquaculture Research

The 10-week AquEOUS fellowship is an USDA funded Research and Extension Experience for Undergraduates (REEU) program which offers undergraduate students from around the nation a unique opportunity to combine ecological knowledge from indigenous science with STEM concepts from western science to solve real-world problems in aquaculture at the University of Maine’s world class aquaculture facilities. Mentorship will be provided by the interdisciplinary faculty of the Aquaculture Research Institute and knowledge keepers of the Wabanaki tribes as facilitated through the Wabanaki Center.

Applied research questions will be identified by Wabanaki leaders and aquaculture sector participants in Maine. Students will have an array of research foci from which to choose. They will co-design projects using concepts learned from their mentors, the AquEOUS seminar, field trips, and workshops in Indigenous Knowledge, applied aquaculture science, science communications, and STEM concepts. Students will live on site for 10 weeks at the University of Maine in Orono and will participate in a virtual seminar before they arrive.



Check back weekly, as we are still adding/updating projects

Sea Run Fisheries Restoration and Management

Sea Run Fisheries Restoration and Management in the Penobscot River

The project will focus on the cultural, ecological, and biological role of salmon in the Penobscot River working to cultivate partnerships between the Penobscot Nation, the University of Maine, and US Fish and Wildlife Service, and NOAA. The project will build upon the gains in connectivity to upriver habitat through the Penobscot River Restoration Program which has a mission of restoring ecologically relevant numbers of adult Atlantic salmon in the wild. Students will work both  in the field and the lab on multiple elements of the project surrounding the marine rearing of adult Atlantic Salmon, a novel method to increase natural reproduction for species recovery. Students will learn aquatic animal health skills, hatchery and field sampling techniques, and water quality monitoring.

Indigenous Youth Aquaponics Program

Indigenous Youth Aquaculture Program

The Cooperative Extension 4-H Aquaponics Project and the Wabanaki Youth and Science (WaYS) are collaborating to explore the co-creation of youth aquaponics curriculum. This project would include assessments of current indigenous youth interests in aquatic sciences. These identified interest areas will then be used to create long-term youth development programming that will allow indigenous youth to explore diverse science career pathways through their cultural heritage. Students will be involved in creating curricula, community outreach products, and developing best practices for tribal extension efforts. They will develop skills in aquaponics systems design and management and aquatic animal husbandry. 

Ferda Farms Paul Rawson Max Burtis

Shellfish in Maine Rivers, Past Present and Future

Students will work on on-going shellfish projects in Maine’s coastal rivers and estuaries. This work will include using genomic selection to develop disease-resistant oysters, investigating the impacts of parasitic polychaetes (blister worms) on the quality of oysters grown in Maine’s rivers and razor clam culture.  Students will explore the history of tribal use and views on the exploitation of Maine’s coastal rivers and develop a survey to assess the degree to which shellfish farmers in Maine are aware of tribal views regarding the exploitation of coastal resources and how their cultural practices recognize and incorporate tribal knowledge.

Traditional Ecological knowledge of Maliseet Salmon use and range

Sea Run Fisheries Restoration and Management in the Meduxnekeag River

Students will gain insight into sea run fisheries restoration in the Meduxnekeag River, a vital tribal resource for the Houlton Band of Maliseet. Students will gain traditional ecological knowledge of salmon ecology while working with environmental DNA techniques such as metabarcoding, sample processing, and data synthesis, to inform the restoration project. Students will answer questions about ecologically important restoration taxa, both invasive and native, using these techniques while using best practices in management of data that originates in Maliseet Tribal Lands.

Using Environmental DNA to Monitor River Health and Fisheries Restoration

Using Environmental DNA to Monitor River Health and Fisheries Restoration

Students will collect environmental DNA (eDNA) samples paired with survey data of aquatic macroinvertebrates and fish. The term eDNA refers to cellular and free DNA found in environmental samples such as river water. eDNA can be used to detect and monitor species and ecological communities of interest at much lower cost, and thus much larger scales, compared to surveys based on collecting and identifying individual organisms based on morphology.  eDNA is a promising tool in monitoring the restoration of traditional fisheries in the rivers of Maine, e.g. the Penobscot river and tributaries, and in assessing water quality.  Macroinvertebrates are classic indicators of water quality, and can potentially be identified with eDNA.  eDNA is still a new and under-tested tool, thus this project will aim to test its utility in Maine rivers and for potential future adoption by natural resource managers of Tribal Nation governments and community groups. Students will also learn about and apply current best practices in the management of data that originate from Indigenous homelands and/or Traditional Knowledge. These best practices center on the use of Biocultural and Traditional Knowledge Notices and Labels, which are physical and digital metadata markers of the rights of Indigenous communities to govern the use and re-use of their data.

Salmon Eggs up close

Aquatic Animal Health in Finfish Aquaculture

This project delves into aspects of maintaining optimal health for finfish in a research environment, translating to improved health and welfare of cultured finfish for restoration and food production purposes.Through this project, students will engage with cutting-edge research and hands-on experiences to understand and address health challenges faced by these aquatic species with focus on land-based recirculating water systems. While exploring indigenous perspectives on food sovereignty, environmental impacts and animal welfare, the student will learn  cutting-edge RAS technology and aquatic animal health and husbandry techniques in the lab.

Inclusive Aquaculture Communications

Inclusive Aquaculture Communications

A diversity of perspectives strengthens the overall sustainability of the aquaculture sector and inclusive science communication is key to making sure the benefits are accessible.  Using communications tools such as social media, story maps, podcasts, and interactive graphics, the AquEOUS fellow will work with the broader cohort to develop communication products that integrate diverse ways of knowing for a wider audience. Incorporating indigenous perspectives,  the goal is to forge a new narrative landscape—one that amplifies inclusivity and highlights the relevance of varied knowledge systems in shaping modern aquaculture discourse.

Aquaculture Research Institute (Salmon Tanks)

Identifying Biomarkers to predict Atlantic Salmon Reproductive and Population Quality

Students will work on an ongoing project to identify biomarkers in Atlantic salmon that can be used to predict future performance. This work uses genes, morphology, chromatography, and behavior to predict whether a fish will be a good fish to breed, or if the offspring will be healthy. This information can be used to enhance restoration efforts of this culturally important species. Students will learn to conduct morphometric assessments of developing larvae, participate in behavioral trials, assess hormones in the fish’s plasma, and process samples using histology.

Sustainable Aquaculture with American Unagi

Sustainable Aquaculture with American Unagi

Undergraduate students participating in this fellowship will engage hands-on with American eels cultivated at the American Unagi RAS facility in Waldoboro, Maine. They’ll gain practical experience conducting water quality tests, monitoring oxygen levels, and handling the fish through tasks like sampling and grading. Working alongside management, students will develop a project relevant to the farm’s objectives. American Unagi prioritizes growing a traceable and sustainable fish while upholding a well-managed fishery deeply rooted in the local working waterfront. The historical significance of eels within indigenous cultures worldwide, including the close relationship with Maine’s Wabanaki tribes who traditionally fish for glass eels, will be explored. Students will collaborate closely with the Passamaquoddy at Indian Township and tribal harvesters, immersing themselves in a unique experience that offers real-world insights into aquaculture complexities. Emphasis will be placed on understanding the role of community collaboration in fostering sustainable economic development. This fellowship, stationed at the Darling Marine Center, spans 10 weeks and requires students to have reliable transportation throughout the program

oyster Cages in water

Intertidal Oyster Aquaculture

This project aims to explore the potential of intertidal oyster culture in Maine, comparing it with traditional farming methods such as floating oyster cages over a multi-year production cycle. Students will be based at the Darling Marine Center on the Damariscotta River Estuary and will kick off the study tracking intertidal seed oyster growth, shell shape, and mortality rates at the ARI experimental aquaculture farm. Students based at the center will gain hands-on experience in field methods, oyster aquaculture husbandry, and environmental monitoring. The research will emphasize site selection, considering factors like water quality and substrate composition.

AquEOUS is funded by USDA-NIFA Award: 2022-67037-36623