Margaret Campbell: Californian chooses UMaine for marine science  

Third-year University of Maine student Margaret Campbell from San Diego, California is an ocean lover who aspires to a career in marine affairs. She started college at the University of California, Davis, a campus renowned for its marine and coastal science programs, but quickly realized that for her, bigger was not necessarily better. 

“The University of Maine has a top-ranked marine sciences program, a smaller student body and lots of opportunities for student research,” says Campbell. “I was also very excited to move across the country and experience seasons.”

Now a double major at UMaine in marine sciences and history, Campbell has been immersed in research for the last year, studying marine algae with professor Susan Brawley. 

“Working in her lab I have learned what it takes to conduct research, gained an understanding of how much work goes into it, and have learned a lot about algae,” says Campbell.

This summer, she was an intern with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Diadromous Ecosystem Research Program, working with Justin Stevens of Maine Sea Grant to assess the health of Maine’s alewife populations. While the pandemic kept her from wading into Maine’s sea-run rivers to monitor the fish passages in person, Campbell’s virtual efforts have helped characterize the biological and population metrics of an increasingly valuable natural resource.

Back on campus, Campbell continues her work with Sea Grant, evaluating the sustainability measures she has learned so much about, and compiling the data she analyzed in a scientific publication that researchers can use to inform species management in the Penobscot River watershed. Since her return to Maine late this summer, she has finally been able to visit some of the data collection sites she had never seen, including the Milford Dam. 

“After having looked at the data all summer, it was exciting to see where the river herring runs and restoration takes place,” says Campbell. 

And she gets in the water ― fresh or salty — at every opportunity, having vowed to swim in the Stillwater River, which she notes is a bit colder than the Pacific Ocean, every day in September.  

How would you describe the academic atmosphere and student experience at UMaine? 
UMaine offers a diverse range of academically challenging classes, however, there are multiple resources that are there to help students get through the classes. Living in the dorms I met many friendly people who gave me a “hearty Maine hello” and quickly accepted me into their friend group. I also enjoyed the events put on by UMaine Student Life and found myself attending many events last year for free food with friends. I’ve enjoyed attending UMaine ice hockey games, and taking part in the campus spirit. 

You did a virtual summer internship at NOAA. Can you tell us more about that? 
This summer I worked for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in conjunction with Maine Sea Grant in the Diadromous Program as an intern. Due to the pandemic my internship was online, and I worked from home in San Diego instead of being in the rivers in Maine. The topic I focused on was evaluating sustainability metrics during river herring restoration, specifically in the Penobscot watershed. This internship gave me a lot of data analysis experience, as well as opportunities to connect with professionals across the fisheries field in NOAA, the Maine Department of Marine Resources, and a fisheries biologist at the Penobscot Indian Nation. 

Have you worked closely with a mentor, professor or role model who has made your UMaine experience better, and if so, who and how? 
I have been working closely for just over a year now with Dr. Brawley. Being a student researcher has made my UMaine experience better because I have become more involved in what is happening at the university. I have expanded my knowledge and learning from Dr. Brawley, and have made important connections within the marine science field. 

Have you had an experience at UMaine — either academically or socially — that has changed or shaped the way you see the world?
One of my favorite experiences at the University of Maine has been exploring the environment around the school. Being from San Diego and a marine science major, I absolutely love the water. Being out in nature I’ve gained an appreciation for different ecosystems and have had my passion for marine science cemented. 

Describe UMaine in one word. 

From the beginning I’ve felt welcomed and at home at the University of Maine. The campus is filled with friendly people, helpful teachers, and spirited events that make you feel welcomed. 

What do you hope to do after graduation and how has UMaine helped you reach those goals?
After graduating I hope to get my master’s degree in marine policy or marine affairs. Ultimately I want to work for either the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or for the Environmental Protection Agency in creating legislation to protect our oceans. The University of Maine has given me the student research experiences that will make me stand out from my peers when applying to graduate school. It has given me the foundation to pursue my dreams of protecting the ocean. 

What is the most interesting, engaging or helpful class you’ve taken at UMaine? 
The most interesting class I have taken so far at the University of Maine has been SMS 201 — Biology of Marine Organisms with Sara Lindsay. I began taking this class last spring and ended up continuing it online at home once the pandemic hit. This class covered a lot of information, but the thing that really stood out to me was learning about bioluminescence. Being home, I was in San Diego when learning about this, it just so happened that we were having a large bioluminescent event and I was able to go swimming in the electric blue water while having just learned all the information behind how and why it happens. 

What difference has UMaine made in your life? 
The University of Maine has given me an unforgettable college experience, I am thankful everyday I decided to transfer here. This school has brought me great friendships, research opportunities, and an academic understanding of important concepts that will help me in my future career.

Contact: Joan Perkins,