Marina Cucuzza: DMC assistantship great prep for research on resilience of fishing communities

Editor’s note: In this student profile, graduate student Marina Cucuzza writes about the value of her summer experience at the Darling Marine Center. The University of Maine Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions partially funded her research.

As the summer came to a close, I left the Darling Marine Center to begin my first semester of graduate school at the University of Maine.

There wasn’t a dull moment since I arrived at the marine lab in early May 2017, as my research assistantship and resident life assistant position kept me quite busy.

The summer was full of opportunities for research, public outreach and professional development, and I am grateful to have spent time both in the lab and on the water.

In collaboration with professors Heather Leslie and Josh Stoll, my research focused on investigating conservation efforts in the United States that exemplify marine ecosystem-based management.

From the Puget Sound Partnership in Washington to the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, these initiatives work to protect ocean resources while meeting the needs of people.

Through a literature analysis and policy document review, I explored the drivers, governance structures, challenges and accomplishments of these organizations.

I developed flowcharts that outline their co-management structures and created timelines that track their progress. To learn about the processes that facilitate successful management, I interviewed managers, policymakers and scientists.

The information gained from this project will inform discussions on cooperative research and co-management efforts in the Gulf of Maine. I will present this work at a workshop this fall that will focus on opportunities to integrate and advance ecosystem-based fisheries management in Maine.

One of the most valuable experiences I had this summer was the opportunity for public outreach. I led weekly walking tours of the marine lab’s waterfront facilities, helped run an undergrad professional development program and volunteered to teach visitors about plankton at the Damariscotta Mills alewife festival. These experiences were great opportunities to engage with the public and communicate science.

A highlight of my summer was the day I spent on a lobster fishing boat with a researcher from the Maine Department of Marine Resources. The trip was part of the sea sampling survey, an effort to collect biological and catch/effort information within Maine’s lobster fishery.

Lobster traps were hauled to assess the number and characteristics of legal, sublegal, oversize, egg-bearing and V-notched lobsters. I measured and tagged over 60 Jonah crabs that were caught in the lobster traps (and only got pinched once) as part of an ongoing migration and stock assessment study.

I also helped V-notch egg-bearing female lobsters and learned to stage egg development of these “eggers.” It was a long and exhausting day at sea, but I am grateful for the opportunity to learn from both fishermen and scientists.

With the start of the semester, I am beginning the dual degree Masters of Science in marine biology and marine policy at UMaine. My thesis will explore questions relating to resilience and sustainability of Maine’s coastal fishing communities in the face of ecological and social change.

The work I did this summer has been instrumental in preparation for my thesis work and I am beyond grateful for my summer at the Darling Marine Center and excited for the work that lies ahead.

Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777