On Saturday, March 21st, 2015, I participated on a panel about climate change in Maine at the first Maine Science Festival, which was a fantastic event that drew 10,000 people of all ages to interact with science through presentations, workshops, and other events. The panel was moderated by Linda Silka, the former Director of the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center and a Professor in the School of Economics. Our panel group opened with an overview of climate change in Maine by Dr. Ivan Fernandez. He is a professor at the University of Maine in the forestry department and the Climate Change Institute and he played a significant role in writing the 2009 Maine's Climate Future report and the 2015 update, the culmination of a voluntary effort undertaken by a number of researchers in Maine at the request of Governor Baldacci.
Dr. Mathew Chatfield, an assistant professor of conservation biology at Unity College, followed Dr. Fernandez's talk. Dr. Chatfield studies amphibians and reptiles and he focused his presentation on talking about the challenges certain species with narrow ecological niches face as temperatures increase and precipitation patterns change; those species face real barriers to survival.
My presentation focused on evidence of warming water temperatures and ocean acidification, and the ecological and socioeconomic implications these changes have for important species in the Gulf of Maine. Scientists at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute believe the Gulf of Maine is warming faster than 99% of the world's ocean. Others in the state have attributed the lack of the Northern shrimp (Pandalus borealis) fishery, which is closed for the second season in a row, to warmer water temperatures altering the timing of the spring phytoplankton bloom and the release of shrimp eggs into the water column. The two events used to be synchronized so that larval shrimp could maximize feeding on the ready supply of phytoplankton; however, the timing of each event has shifted due to changes in water temperature. The result is that shrimp larvae are not getting the nutrition they need to survive. I also pointed to other examples of changes in the marine system, including the range expansion of black sea bass and the devastating effects green crabs have had on valuable nursery habitats and on our clam fishery, the third most valuable commercial fishery in the state. These examples are occurring partially because of warming waters and ocean acidification.
Finally, Dr. Caroline Noblet, a professor in the School of Economics at the University of Maine, concluded the discussion by speaking about the public perception of climate change and how to tailor messaging about evidence to initiate action. Once we wrapped up our presentations, the audience asked excellent questions about how to move policy and other initiatives forward to mitigate climate change effects and how communities can adapt to changing conditions. The discussion was engaging and I left the presentation feeling encouraged that people are paying attention and thinking about solutions to this critical issue.