Science for Everyone


Maine Science Festival: Climate Change Panel

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.  

One of my presentation slides

One of my presentation slides

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. 

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The Height of Our Scallop Research Season

This summer has been not only busy on-island with student programs, but also a busy field season collecting data for our collaborative scallop research project. In July 2014, we were awarded a grant administered by Maine Sea Grant with funding from the Maine Community Foundation and the Broad Reach Fund. In early August, we started conducting our second year of dive surveys on Muscle Ridge and Ocean Point.  So far we have completed a total of 16 dive surveys on the Ocean Point scallop closure (you can read more about how this project has been set up here), and surrounding area to assess scallop abundance and to collect samples. These surveys have been conducted with the help of scientists from the Maine Department of Marine Resources and from our HIF science advisor, Dr. Rick Wahle's Lab based at the University of Maine's School of Marine Sciences. I've also been able to work alongside Susie Arnold, the Island Institute's marine scientist, to dive on Muscle Ridge. We've completed 8 sites so far and are hoping to get a few more days of diving in before fall officially arrives!

On September 11, 2014, a crew from Dr. Kevin Stokesbury's lab based at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth arrived in Maine and set up their drop camera rig on Tad Miller's dragger, F/V Julie Ann in Tenants Harbor. We then did three days of drop camera surveys on Muscle Ridge. To identify the sampling stations, we laid a 200 m x 200 m grid over the survey area and marked the center of each cell. We would then steam to the latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates of that center point and drop the camera to the bottom to take footage of the life below.  Fortunately, we did not have any major technical difficulties and were able to increase the number of sites we sampled this year as compared to October 2013 where we lost a cable which limited our ability to sample deeper sites. 

This weekend (September 19 - 21, 2014), I will work with one of our industry partners to set the spat bags out which will then be collected and processed next June. I hope we are able to wrap up the field work by the end of October then on to analysis and preparing for the 2015 field season!

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