ARI celebrates 10 years of aquaculture service to Maine

The advancement of sustainable aquaculture (the farming of aquatic species while allowing continued benefit for the next generation) requires innovative research and multi-disciplinary collaborations for success. The University of Maine’s Aquaculture Research Institute (ARI) is celebrating 10 years of service to the State of Maine as a research resource and an objective authority on aquaculture. ARI is dedicated to advancing a sustainable aquaculture future in the state and beyond through its research, innovation, and education programs.

ARI was established in 2009 with the first Director, Dr. Ian Bricknell, from Fisheries Research Services Marine Laboratory in Scotland. Dr. Deborah Bouchard, who has been a member of ARI since 2009, was appointed Director in 2017.

Since 2009, the institute expanded from two to eleven faculty affiliates in seven departments across three institutions thanks in part to the Sustainable Ecological Aquaculture Network (SEANET) grant awarded by the National Science Foundation through Maine EPSCoR. The grant raised the profile of sustainable aquaculture in Maine and the nation, with over 100 students, faculty and partner researchers completing more than 50 aquaculture projects in five years. Many of the programs funded by SEANET will be continued by ARI, such as engagement with industry through internships, experimental research farms and collaborations with STEM education partners.

Collaborative research by ARI has helped to guide policy and identify future challenges. ARI is Maine’s lead for piloting USDA commercial aquaculture program standards and participates in the International Sea Lice Working Group for the standardization of sea lice bioassays. Dr. Bouchard and other faculty sit on several regulatory boards for lobster and aquaculture in Maine, such as the Maine Aquatic Animal Health Technical Committee and the Lobster Bait Review Committee.

ARI’s Aquatic Research Center on the Orono campus welcomes nearly 1,500 visitors annually to learn about the institute’s research through interactive exhibits and tours. The Aquatic Animal Health Lab, also in Orono, opened in 2018 and allows ARI to serve the state as an authority in aquatic animal disease research and the development of treatments that support healthier species and populations.

Though aquatic animal health has been the research strength of ARI for its first years, determining the influence of environmental stressors on marine species health has also been a rapidly growing research focus. Several interdisciplinary and collaborative studies conducted by ARI-affiliated faculty have contributed to a greater understanding of the effects of climate change on species health and aquaculture systems.

Today, ARI focuses on four important overarching research areas:

  • Healthy communities: social dimensions of aquaculture
  • Healthy species: aquatic animal health
  • Health populations: aquatic species biology and reproduction
  • Health ecosystems: ecological dimensions of aquaculture

ARI is committed to ensuring aquaculture research reaches the next generation of scientists by connecting students with the programs and opportunities available throughout the University of Maine System. Undergraduates and graduate students are offered the opportunity to develop lab and field skills across a number of disciplines, such as microbiology, physiology, media studies, parasite biology and biogeochemical oceanography through industry internships with ARI stakeholders.

“Our last 10 years have focused on building a strong aquatic animal health program and contract research program. ARI’s next 10 years will be a period of growth with our research focus expanding to new and emerging sectors of aquaculture with engagement at a national and international level with researchers and educators.”

– Dr. Deborah Bouchard

As the national focus on cold water aquaculture continues to grow, the nation will turn to Maine as the leader in this sector. ARI will continue to evolve and respond so that its research and outreach remain relevant – with the goal of becoming the North American leader for sustainable aquaculture research, education, and outreach.

Please sign up for ARI’s e-newsletter to keep informed of 10th anniversary events and other aquaculture research news!

Contact: Meggan Dwyer,