Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors quotes faculty, student in article on coastal research

Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors interviewed several faculty members and students from the University of Maine for an article about Maine’s history of coastal research. There are roughly 200 marine stations in the world today, according to Kevin Ecklebarger, professor emeritus of marine biology at UMaine. “An explosion of new marine labs occurred in the 1880s around the world and again during the 1960s in America, when the Darling Marine Center opened,” he said. The Darling Marine Center in Walpole, donated to UMaine by Ira and Clara Darling in the 1960s, is one of at least 18 marine laboratories and coastal field stations in Maine. “No one place, no matter how fantastic the people or facilities, is enough to understand the dynamic and changing Gulf of Maine. We need a network of field stations and marine labs to do that,” said Heather Leslie, director of the center. “In addition to having such a big coast, and needing a network of facilities to match, we also have a strong history of natural history, science and collaboration with industry and communities.” The Downeast Institute for Applied Marine Research and Education at the University of Maine at Machias began as a fisheries operation in 1987. After a $6.6 million expansion in 2018, it is the easternmost marine research laboratory and education center in the United States, according to the article. At the Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland, UMaine researcher Walt Golet and his students gather data on bluefin tuna every summer. Andrew Pershing, chief scientific officer at GMRI and an associate professor in UMaine’s Climate Change Institute, said the facility recently updated its LabVenture interactive educational experience that draws 70 percent of Maine’s fifth- and sixth-graders annually. “The marine community here works pretty well together. There are challenges and rivalries and we compete for the same grants, but we are pretty collaborative,” Pershing said. Out in the field, students can focus and fully immerse themselves in research. “All else falls away when I am doing fieldwork, immersed in a place. I am the most focused,” said Hannah Webber, who is studying rockweed at Schoodic Institute in Acadia National Park as part of her Ph.D. research at UMaine. “Every fall we welcome college students from the University of Maine and a number of other institutions to our Walpole campus. And, every fall, I am reminded anew of the power of living and learning at a marine lab like ours,” said Leslie. “The students are out on the water every day, immersed in the ecosystem that they are studying. Our Semester by the Sea students leave the Darling Center ready to engage as professionals in marine and environmental science and with a clearer sense of how to pursue their passion than when they first joined us. It’s a wonderful transformation to be part of.”