Students: Conducting research to buoy aquaculture
I started the Sea Fellows Program with Brian Beal of the University of Maine at Machias because we saw a real need for a training program focused on Applied Marine Science. We both really love undergraduate mentoring and teaching, and we have fantastic marine science and marine biology programs at Machias and at the University of Maine. We saw opportunities to bring those programs together and involve other students engaged in marine science and applied marine work throughout the state.
This summer, I spent it here at the Darling Center studying the Eastern oyster and I was looking at their feeding activity for the different size classes. Aquaculture is growing at a very fast pace. The Damariscotta River is the hub for oyster aquaculture in Maine. We wanted to measure the feeding activities because currently it’s not known or it’s not well-understood for different size classes of oysters. Knowing that can help aide farmers in growth models, as well as help them select future lease sites on the Damariscotta River.
This summer, I was testing the accuracy of a Submersible Ultraviolet Nitrate Analyzer or SUNA. It is a continuous nitrate monitor that measures nitrate concentrations in the water while it’s deployed. Measuring nitrate is very important because nitrate is used by phytoplankton to grow, and phytoplankton in turn get eaten by oysters. There’s 80 percent of the oysters that are grown in Maine are produced in the Damariscotta River. It’s really important to be able to understand how much nitrate is there to be able to improve aquaculture growth or better growth sites, or anything around the lines of the oysters.
I was funded this summer through the Sea Fellows Program to work on aquaculture research. I chose lobsters and their shell to focus on, particularly shell disease — disease that leaves lesions all over the lobster’s shell. We’re working to graphically model small sections of the shell in hopes that we can discover how the pathogen actually infiltrates, and for maybe other researchers to build on that. This is really important because lobsters contribute over a billion dollars to Maine’s economy every year.
This summer, I’ve been working with the American lobster trying to quantify the relationship between blood protein levels and shell hardness over time. This is an important thing to study because it hasn’t been done before. Also, it is important for the industry because the longer we can store lobsters, the more they increase in value as their shell reaches a new stage of hardness.
This summer, I worked with Arctic surf clams. We’re trying to cultivate them to support and diversify the clamming industry in Downeast in Maine. Like all shellfish, bivalves actually, we start with broodstock. We spawn them, collect the larvae, and grow them in the hatchery until they’re big enough to put in the ocean. We put them in the ocean in cages or trays, and they continue to grow until they’re big enough to seed mud flats with.
This past summer, I’ve been based at the Downeast Institute, and I spent my work with the Arctic surf clam. The goal of what I’m doing is to find the most efficient growth method. By efficient, I mean that the clams have a respectful rate of growth with a high percentage of survival. When we find that growth method, the goal is to expand the already established market for the Arctic surf clam to Downeast Maine.
This summer, I’ve been at the Darling Marine Center. I have quantified or at least tried to form procedures to quantify the amount of surface runoff coming from the land to the estuary — the Damariscotta River estuary. This is working to fill a long-standing gap of knowledge in how we understand water sheds and surface flow. It’s important for responding to land use and in climate changes. We can form management plans based upon this knowledge.