Researcher Reflections: Damian Brady

Damian BradyProtecting coastal water quality while balancing marine resources and economic activity

Damian Brady is an associate professor in the School of Marine Sciences at the Darling Marine Center and a Mitchell Center Faculty Fellow.

What problem/s are you working to solve?

We live in a state with an economy that depends on coastal resources more than perhaps any other state. So we work with aquaculturists, fishermen, citizens, regulatory agencies, and industry to ensure that coastal development protects water quality throughout the state. For example, we deploy water quality buoys along the coast, we produce models of ocean circulation to predict the fate and transport of pollutants, and we empower citizen scientists by giving them the tools to monitor their estuaries.

What progress are you making toward solutions?

Unlike most other states, Maine does not experience traditional problems related to coastal waters becoming over-enriched with nutrients, which creates low dissolved oxygen, sometimes called Dead Zones, in the water and reduces light penetration. Although our colder temperatures and larger tides protect us from some of these types of water quality issues, it also means that we do not have the water quality monitoring and modeling programs present in other more polluted states. Much of our work has focused on creating these programs and applying it to aquaculture and urbanizing watersheds like Casco Bay. We have significantly increased the ability of the state of Maine to understand and address pollution in nearshore coastal waters.

How could your findings contribute to a more sustainable future in Maine and beyond?

Currently, we are concentrating our efforts on creating dynamic maps (that can be updated to include new satellite imagery of the coast as those images become available) that show areas where sustainable aquaculture production of oysters, mussels, and scallops is possible. We are expanding the maps to allow users to determine the optimal species to culture in their area. For example, Downeast Maine sites that are relatively cold may be better sites for mussel or scallop aquaculture whereas some southern Maine areas may be more appropriate for oyster culture.

Why did you decide to join the Mitchell Center?

My initial interest in the Mitchell Center stemmed from my admiration for Senator Mitchell and the work he has done bringing about sustainable peace processes such as his work in my parent’s native Ireland. When I came to the University of Maine, I found that my approach and tools matched what Dr. Hart and other Mitchell Center Fellows were building, and ultimately, I resonate with a stakeholder-engaged approach that focuses on solutions.

What’s the best part about collaborating on Mitchell Center research projects?

Easily the best aspect of this collaboration is access to interdisciplinary social and natural scientists. The problems we are addressing require an interdisciplinary approach, even though this approach can take significantly more time and effort. Working with scientists that appreciate the increased effort and are willing to go the extra mile or year to find a sustainable solution is inspiring.

What sustains you?

Frankly, family. I have three daughters aged 19 months to 12 years. Sustainable solutions are not simply a matter of academic curiosity.