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DEI clam research in Freeport

DEI has been conducting research in the Freeport area since 2013 to understand causes of a declining soft-shell clam population in the northern region of Casco Bay.  Work by DEI staff - Kyle Pepperman, Bennett Ellis, Cody Jourdet, Justin Lewis, Amelia Slocum, George Protopopescu, and Sara Randall, and UMM faculty - Brian Beal - has focused on a variety of factors including ocean acidification, predation, and recruitment limitation as well as ways to combat the decline.  On Monday, May 22nd, Penelope Overton, staff writer at the Portland Press Herald, wrote a front-page article about one of the half-dozen field experiments that are currently underway on Freeport's flats.  The study is examining the time of year clams settle from the plankton to the flats, and what the intensity of settlement is at several sites located on the eastern side of the Harraseeket River.  The work is a continuation of efforts initiated in 2015 using 1-ft x 2-ft x 3-inches tall wooden "recruitment boxes" designed to capture clams that settle out of the plankton and fall into the boxes (that are covered on top an bottom with an industrial strength window screening).  The initially empty boxes are deployed typically in the spring, and are left in place on the surface of the mudflat until November when they are removed and the contents of each box examined carefully.  Boxes in the Harraseeket River tend to fill with mud (some boxes weigh as much as 25 pounds by November), and may contain as many as fifteen different species of marine invertebrates, including soft-shell clams.  Some boxes have had as many as 6,000 clams (3,000 per square foot) by the November sampling event, with sizes ranging from 1/8th of an inch to 1-1/2 inches. Samples of the mudflat adjacent to the boxes (i.e., controls taken from unprotected portions of the same flat) typically contain zero to as many as 2 clams per square foot.  In the study reported in the Press Herald, boxes are being deployed at five locations on the east side of the Harraseeket River every two weeks from the beginning of May through mid-September.  All boxes will be removed and sampled in mid-November.  The work is supported by funding from the University of Maine at Machias, Maine Economic Improvement Fund - Small Campus Initiative, and Sea Pact.

Harold Alfond Foundation Gives DEI $1.8 million

The Harold Alfond Foundation has made a $1.8 million "capstone" gift to support the expansion of the Downeast Institute for Applied Marine Research and Education in the Washington County town of Beals.  The announcement was made by the Foundation’s Chairman, Gregory Powell Thursday evening, March 1, at the Maine Fishermen’s Forum in Rockland. 

 Gregory Powell, Chairman of the Harold Alfond Foundation, announces their capstone gift to DEI.

The Foundation’s gift represents the amount needed to complete a $5.8 million expansion of the Downeast Institute to include laboratory and other space for additional scientists, as well as to provide housing for visiting researchers and students.  It comes on the heels of a University of Maine investment of $2 million toward the same expansion project using funds it had been awarded through the Maine Marine Jobs Bond, which was announced on January 20.  The Downeast Institute serves as the Marine Science Field Station of the University of Maine at Machias.

 According to Powell, “The contributions of the Downeast Institute to aquaculture research, education and community are truly impressive.  And given the Institute’s close relationship with the University of Maine System, which is now unifying the operations of its Orono and Machias campuses, we are especially glad to support the Institute’s expansion with our $1.8 million grant. 

 Chancellor James Page of the University of Maine System was also on hand to celebrate the achievement, which supports the system’s efforts to bring investment and opportunity to the Downeast region. Over the last three years, the System has invested over $900,000 in the partnership between the Downeast Institute and UMM in support of their applied marine research conducted all along the Maine coast in support of the state’s commercially important shellfish industry.

 “The capacity for discovery, education, and support we are building at the University of Maine Machias’ Marine Science Field Station at the Downeast Institute will help Maine expand its global standing as a steward and supplier of marine resources.”  Said Chancellor Page.

Dr. Brian Beal, a professor of marine ecology at the University of Maine at Machias and Director of its Marine Science Field Station, credits collaboration for bringing innovation and investment to the region. “The Downeast Institute will be the easternmost marine research laboratory and education center in the United States, offering world class facilities for researchers, unique educational opportunities for students, and resources for entrepreneurs.  None of our individual institutions could have brought this kind of capacity for economic and educational opportunity to the people of Maine by ourselves.”

The lead $2 million gift needed for the project came from the Next Generation Foundation of Blue Hill Maine in October of 2014. 

 DEI, UMM, and the University of Maine System announce plans to construct the Easternmost Marine Research Laboratory and Education Center in the U.S. (January 2017)

On Friday, January 20th, the Chancellor of the University of Maine System, Dr. James Page, announced at a public gathering and celebration at DEI that the University of Maine at Machias and the Downeast Institute were recipients of a $2 million infrastructure award that, when combined with a similar amount from the Next Generation Foundation of Maine that DEI received in November 2014, would create the easternmost marine research laboratory and education center in the United States.  The infrastructure project has been an ongoing goal of DEI's board since 2000 when DEI first proposed the idea to the Maine Science and Technology Foundation (later to become the Maine Technology Institute, MTI).  The marine education center and classroom was the first piece to be funded in 2010 through a grant to DEI from MTI, and a grant to UMM from the National Science Foundation.  In 2014, Maine voters approved a ballot referendum to facilitate the growth of marine businesses that create jobs and improve the sustainability of the State’s marine economy and related industries through capital investments.  UMM and DEI were invited participate in a competitive proposal process to create an Alliance for Maine’s Marine Economy.  The Alliance proposal, that included both public and private sector investments from Saco to Beals, was successful, and the investment in the Downeast Institute and the Marine Science Field Station together with the Next Generation Foundation gift will enable us to make arrangements to begin construction of our Phase II infrastructure project. Ground-breaking for the new facility will occur sometime during July 2017.  It is anticipated that the facility will be ready for use within 16-18 months thereafter.

 

Collaborative work between DEI and DMR is published in the Journal of Shellfish Research (January 2017)

A two-year collaboration between DEI staff and Maine's Department of Marine Resources (DMR) area biologists was published in the December 2016 issue of the Journal of Shellfish Research.  The paper is titled: "Comparative, Large-Scale Field Trials Along the Maine Coast to Assess Management Options to Enhance Populations of the Commercially Important Softshell Clam, Mya arenaria L." The work occurred at two intertidal flats in each of the towns of Jonesboro, South Thomaston, and Boothbay during the summer and fall of 2014 and 2015, and examined how predator exclusion netting along with planting cultured seed clams produced at DEI can enhance wild stocks of clams on intertidal flats.  According to the abstract of the paper, "Average annual and wintertime seawater temperatures in the Gulf of Maine have risen gradually during the past two decades, and this has been accompanied by increases in clam predators such as the invasive European green crab, Carcinus maenas. In this climate, conservation closures or other large-scale, indirect shellfish management tools cannot be effective in creating new wealth or maintaining jobs associated with the clam fishery in most areas. Therefore, to adapt to changes and increase diversification in the clamming industry in Maine, clammers should be encouraged to farm small (ca. ≤ 10 acres) intertidal tracts where netting and other predator-deterrent measures can be maintained easily and routinely, and where exclusive rights to harvest the farmed shellfish are granted to the individual."  A pdf copy of the entire paper is available through this link.

DEI's Collen Haskell successful with two marine education grants (December 2016)

Two philanthropic organizations, the Davis Family Foundation in Yarmouth, Maine, and the Captain Planet Foundation in Atlanta, Georgia, both announced in December that they had funded marine science education grants to DEI for work during the coming year.  According to DEI's Education Director, Colleen Haskell, the grant from the Davis Family Foundation will create a yearlong program designed to help K-12 educators adopt scientific inquiry and methods geared to students and the local coastal environment using DEI's "Let's Find Out" approach that encourages student engagement and critical thinking.  DEI's "Coastal Academy" will run during the summer of 2017, and enable interested teachers from Washington County to receive four days of training at DEI's marine research facility and education center.  Daily workshops will include topics covering the scientific method, research, experimental design, and resources for educators.  The environmental education grant from the Captain Planet Foundation will be used to continue work with students and their teachers at the Beals Elementary School during 2017.  The project, "Let's Find Out What Is Out There - Then Manage, Restore, and Protect It," will teach children how to use techniques developed at DEI to protect young clams from predators, giving them a chance to grow and survive to marketable size. 

DEI releases its Annual Report for 2016 (December 2016)

Dianne Tilton, DEI's Executive Director, recently released the organization's 2016 Annual Report that follows our strategic progress over the last twelve months.  Subtitled "Progressing Toward Our Vision," the report includes information on shellfish production, research initiatives, building stronger ties with the University of Maine at Machias as DEI serves as UMM's Marine Science Field Station, our summer marine science camps and on-going educational programs, and our plans for expansion of facilities that have been a 16-year goal of the organization to create the easternmost marine research laboratory and education center in the U.S.  Click here to go to the web page containing a link to the Annual Report.

DEI receives renewed project funding from Sea Pact (November 2016)

Rob Johnson, Managing Director of Sea Pact, a non-profit organization comprised of nine North American seafood companies, announced recently that DEI's proposal (Continued Field Trials to Assess the Efficacy of Methods to Enhance Wild and Cultured Stocks of Soft-Shell Clams, Mya arenaria) has received funding for the 2017 field season.  According to DEI's field coordinator in the Freeport, Maine area, Sara Randall, the project in northern Casco Bay will "provide funds to continue DEI's historic, large-scale, applied research program to examine the effectiveness of different methods designed to protect shellfish from invasive green crabs and other predators, and to restore soft-shell clam populations.  The project is comprised of large sets of field trials deployed in the intertidal gradient which tests various hypotheses involving predator exclusion and habitat modification, and will result in the enhancement of wild and cultured soft-shell clams. It also involves commercially licensed clammers in the development and implementation of these adaptive management practices. The ultimate goal is to maintain and increase harvests so that clammers and the soft-shell clam supply chain can continue to make a living and profit, and consumers can continue to enjoy this nutritious protein source."  Sea Pact is a group of leading North American seafood companies dedicated to driving stewardship and continuous improvement of social, economic, and environmental responsibility throghout the global seafood supply chain.  DEI received similar funding from Sea Pact in 2014 and 2016 that was used to help coordinate field activities involving clammers and researchers in Freeport, Maine.

DEI's Colleen Haskell and Kyle Pepperman provide educational program to teachers from Brunswick High School (September 2016)

On August 24th and 25th, Colleen Haskell, Kyle Pepperman, and the DEI crew welcomed two Brunswick High School teachers to learn about how to infuse marine science into their science curriculum.  Rick Wilson, director of service learning, and Andrew McCullough, marine science teacher, participated in DEI's first Coastal Academy.  In two short days, the pair learned about numerous hands-on projects that can easily be incorporated into the marine science classroom at Brunswick High School.  These projects included laboratory studies such as raising phytoplankton, culturing bivalves such as clams and mussels, and growing lobsters as well as field-related projects such as planting and protecting cultured soft-shell clam seed and deploying clam recruitment boxes to study how productive certain intertidal areas are when predators are excluded.  Follow this link to a newspaper article in the Mid-Coast Forecaster describing the two days at DEI and what the two teachers are doing back at Brunswick High School.  

The photograph (below) is from the article.

Kyle Pepperman, left, and Colleen Haskell of the Downeast Institute, and Brunswick High School science teacher Andrew McCullough check on a 14-by-14-foot net that protects seed clams from green crabs at Molly Cove, near DEI.

DEI Researcher, Dr. Scott Morello, interviewed by the Associated Press and CBS news about blue mussel declines along the coast (August 2016)

Dr. Scott Morello contributed to an online article concerning the "sudden" disappearance of blue mussels along the shores of the Gulf of Maine.  Dr. Morello and Dr. Phil Yund, DEI's Senior Scientist, have been working on an NSF-funded research project to determine the source of juvenile mussels at selected sites along the Maine and New England coast.  The online article that you can link to here indicates that at one point, nearly 2/3rds of the intertidal zone was covered with mussels, but that has dropped to 15% in the past few years.

DEI Research Director receives 2-yr grant from the National Sea Grant Aquaculture Research Program (August 2016)

Paul Anderson, Director of the Maine Sea Grant College Program, recently announced that DEI's Director of Research, Dr. Brian Beal, was awarded a two-year, $280,000 grant from the National Sea Grant Aquaculture Research Program to continue working with Arctic surfclams.  The proposal was titled: "Arctic surfclam (Mactromeris polynyma): a new candidate species to diversify and advance sustainable domestic aquaculture in Maine and the Northeast US."  According to Beal, DEI first began culturing this species in 2009 with a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).  That led to additional work from 2010-2013 that was funded by the National Science Foundation.  Most of the work to date has occurred at DEI (hatchery and nursery efforts) and in Washington County (field-based grow-out efforts).  The National Sea Grant College Program work will allow Dr. Beal and DEI staff to examine the fate and growth of cultured surfclam juveniles at 15 lower intertidal locations from Kittery to Lubec to determine if it is possible to grow this species to commercial sizes (1.5-2 inches).  Arctic surfclams are harvested commercially only in Maritime Canada where an annual, $60 million fishery exists.  That fishery concentrates on relatively large (4-6 inches) and old (20-40 year-old) animals that are hydraulically dredged from soft bottoms at depths from 50-150 feet below the surface of the ocean in a number of areas southeast of Halifax as well as around the Magdalen Islands.  Only the foot of the animal is sold, and that product is used in both sushi and sashimi dishes.  Work at DEI has discovered the potential for growing this species to a smaller size in the lower intertidal.  The goal of the research is to find suitable growout locations along the coast of Maine and examine several different methods to grow the cultured seed efficiently to commercial sizes.

DEI Board Chair and two marine science summer campers appear on WERU Coastal Conversations (July 2016)

Lynn Alley (Science teacher at Jonesport-Beals High School and DEI's Board Chairman) along with Mitch and Musette (two marine science summer campers) appeared on WERU's Coastal Conversations on Friday, July 22nd.  The program topic was "Youth engaged in marine programs in Maine," and was hosted by Natalie Springuel (Maine Sea Grant).  Listen to stories from the field, and what kids are finding and experiencing at DEI this summer by following this link that will take you to the hour-long archive.  What an amazing job everyone did!

DEI Scientists, Drs. Phil Yund and Scott Morello, grab U.S. News & World Reports Headlines with their work on blue mussels (June 2016)

Drs. Phil Yund and Scott Morello gained the national spotlight in early May 2016 when results from work they conducted during the summer of 2014 at DEI on the behavior of blue mussel larvae was published in the Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology.  U.S. News and World Reports picked up the story that originated with Associated Press writer, Patrick Whittle, and that was published in their online edition on May 10, 2016 an article titled "Scientists believe mussels rely on smell when choosing where to set up their homes."  Here is a link to the U.S. News and World Reports article.  The two scientists examined how blue mussel larvae (the early, microscopic swimming stage) make choices related to where they settle and end up on the bottom.  In the lab, they offered various odors from a variety of marine organisms to mussel larvae, and watched the direction (towards the odor = positive cues; away from the odor = negative cues) larvae swam.  Results showed that there are both strong positive and negative cues that help mussel larvae decide when and where to settle to the bottom.  The work will help marine ecologists better understand the complex nature of mussel behaviors, and how settlement choices early in life result in where mussel beds form and how they become established.  The link to the scientific paper in the Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology can be found here.

 
Dr. Phil Yund, DEI's Senior Scientist, has five papers published in 2015 (December 2015)

Dr. Phil Yund, DEI's Senior Scientist since March 2012, has had five scientific journal articles publised in four peer-reviewed journals during 2015.  Dr. Yund was the primary author on two publications. One of these concerned new work on a colonial ascidian (a marine invertebrate filter-feeder known as a tunicate or sea squirt) found in downeast Maine as well as in Europe. Dr. Yund and his co-workers determined that the species Botryllus schlosseri is not an invasive species along our shores, as previously thought.  Instead, the team determined by comparing genetic diversity of populations of the same species in other parts of the world that there is evidence that the presence of this sea squirt in Maine and other parts of the Northwest Atlantic substantially pre-dates human colonization from Europe.  Colonial tunicates generally grow quickly on a wide variety of different substrates, and their sheet-like shape often lets them replace resident plants and animals by overgrowth and smothering. Another paper focused on the distribution of larvae and adults of two different species of blue mussels - Mytilus edulis and Mytilus trossulus - within the boundaries of the Eastern Maine Coastal Current.  That work has implications for other bivalve species such as sea scallops and soft-shell clams.  For a complete description of the five papers plus others that Dr. Yund has published at DEI, see: http://www.downeastinstitute.org/deis-new-senior-scientist-dr.-phil-yund.htm.

Senator Angus King visits DEI (September 2015)

Senator Angus King, along with his director of innovation and economic development, Adam Lachman, and regional representative, Chris Rector, visited and toured DEI today (Wednesday, September 2).  While at DEI, he met with Executive Director, Dianne Tilton, board members Jane Hinson, Doug Chapman, and Denis-Marc Nault as well as DEI employees Ben Ellis, Cody Jourdet, and Kyle Pepperman.  The senator learned about our expansion plans and needs, current National Science Foundation research on Arctic surfclams and blue mussels, and how we are working with local schools and teachers to bring marine science to the K-12 curriculum.

Senator King learns about our work with Arctic surfclams from DEI's aquaculture research and production assistant, Cody Jourdet.

 

DEI says goodbye to long-time employee, George Protopopescu (August 2015)

George Protopopescu, Assistant Director of the Marine Science Field Station at the Downeast Institute, has accepted a teaching position in Lexington, Massachusetts.  While we are sorry to see George leave, we are excited to see this new opportunity in his life.  George has worked at the Downeast Institute since graduating from the marine biology program at the University of Maine at Machias in 2006.  We wish George and his family all the best and good luck!

George Protopoescu - DEI overwintering (2011)

DEI's Board Announces New Executive Director - Dianne Tilton (March 2015)

Dianne Tilton of Harrington will be working with DEI’s volunteer board to manage business operations, financial management, and development. 

Tilton was the first Executive Director of the Sunrise County Economic Council and served in that capacity for over 13 years.  During her tenure, the organization gained a reputation around Maine for its creative and innovative approach to regional development, and Tilton was recognized for her leadership by several organizations, including the Maine Development Foundation and the Finance Authority of Maine.  Since 2006, she has been employed by RHR Smith & Company, CPA’s, a statewide audit and accounting firm.  She served in the 124th and 125th Maine House of Representatives from 2009 to 2012 representing District 33 (Steuben to Beals).

Lynn Alley, Jonesport-Beals High School science teacher, is Chair of DEI’s Board of Directors and said that Tilton’s experience and skills in the nonprofit sector and her legislative experience working with state and community issues make her a natural choice for the organization.  “Dianne was a founding Director of DEI and served actively for most of the past 18 years.  She knows our history, she believes in our mission, and she has the skills and attributes we need,” Alley said.

Dr. Brian Beal, Professor of Marine Ecology, is both DEI’s Director of Research and Director of UMM’s Marine Field Station. He said that DEI is poised for the next step in its development and needs a seasoned professional to see it through.  “DEI just received a generous gift from the Next Generation Foundation to help us build the next phase of the facility at Black Duck Cove,” he said.  “Dianne has been a part of that effort, understands it, and can help us make all that happen.  She has the ability to lead us to achieve our long term vision, and that’s what we need right now.  We can’t afford to miss a beat, and with Dianne on board, we won’t.”

DEI's Senior Scientist, Dr. Phil Yund, receives NSF research award (February 2015)

The National Science Foundation announced on 11 February 2015 that DEI's Senior Scientist, Dr. Phil Yund, has been awarded a grant of $355,917 for support involving his collaborative research project titled: "Collaborative Research: Intertidal community assembly and dynamics: Integrating broad-scale regional variation in environmental forcing and benthic-pelagic coupling." 

Dr. Yund will be working with three other marine scientists:  Geoffrey Trussell, Northeastern University; Huijie Xue, University of Maine, Orono; Ron Etter, University of Massachusetts, Boston.

Next Generation Foundation awards DEI $2 million for Phase II construction of marine research laboratory

PRESS RELEASE - Beals, Maine (October 27, 2014)

The Downeast Institute for Applied Marine Research and Education (DEI), a nonprofit organization in Beals, Maine, has been awarded a $2 million grant from the Next Generation Foundation, a charitable organization located in Blue Hill, Maine supporting education, health enhancement, and basic human needs. 

 A representative from the foundation said, “The Next Generation Foundation considers it a privilege to be the lead funder for the facility expansion at Downeast Institute's Great Wass Island location, knowing that this also means expansion of research key to Maine's seafood industry and expansion of educational opportunities at all levels of study."

 The award will be used to make improvements and build an addition to the existing shellfish research and production laboratory and education center.  The grant will allow DEI to expand research opportunities in eastern Maine for marine scientists and their students, to create new opportunities for marine business incubation, and to increase the scope of existing educational programs with K-12 schools.

 The Downeast Institute’s mission is to improve the quality of life for the people of downeast and coastal Maine through applied marine research, technology transfer, and public marine resource education.  According to Lynn Alley, chair of the DEI board of directors and a science teacher at Jonesport-Beals High School, “This tremendously generous gift will allow us to begin a process that has been a vision of ours for the past 15 years to create the easternmost marine research laboratory and education center in the United States.”  The build-out will include research space for holding live marine organisms, processing samples collected at sea and along the shore, office space for scientists and their staff, a reception area for visitors, and a 50-seat conference center. 

 “Most marine research in Maine is restricted to areas along the southwest coast where much of the physical infrastructure exists for marine scientists and their research teams,” said Brian Beal, director of research at DEI and professor of marine ecology at the University of Maine at Machias (UMM).  “The near shore environment from Frenchman’s Bay to Cobscook Bay is as essential to the downeast economy as Casco Bay is to the coastal towns in Cumberland County, yet few marine scientists venture this far east because they have no facilities from which to conduct their work.  The grant from the Next Generation Foundation will provide the work space for new collaborations between marine scientists and fishers, entrepreneurs, and faculty and students from UMM.  This is such an exciting and important gift.  It will provide a legacy of research and learning about our marine ecosystem for the downeast community,” said Beal.

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Students at the Frank Harrison Middle School in Yarmouth conduct a clam experiment at Pogey Cove.

This link will take you to the initial set up day (June 5, 2014), and this link will take you to the results (October 19, 2014).

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Clam project with Woolwich Central School results in an Exemplary Practic Award from the Maine Association for Middle Level Education (MAMLE).

This link will take you to the MAMLE page describing the effort.

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Northeasternmost discovery in U.S. of Asian shore crab (Hemigrapsus sanguineus) at DEI

On Tuesday, September 24, 2013, students in the Marine Ecology class at the University of Maine at Machias discovered an Asian Shore Crab. This was the northern and easternmost record of this invasive species that has been in the U.S. since at least 1988. It was discovered near the upper intertidal under rocks that were covered with rockweed, Ascophyllum nodosum, during a field lab in which densities of mussels, periwinkles, and green crabs were being assessed quantitatively.  The individual was a male that measured 13.03 mm in carapace width.  Read about the story from the Bangor Daily News article by Tim Cox.  Read more about this invasive species at the National Invasive Species Information Center.

In addition, another male Asian Shore Crab was discovered in May 2014 by students at the Beals Elementary School in Mr. George Crawford's 7th-8th grade science class.  Again, this was a single individual, and none have been discovered since that time.

 

Asian shore crab (*Hemigrapsus sanguineus*) found along the rocky shore at DEI on 24 September 2013.

The crab was found near the upper intertidal along the shore near DEI under rocks covered with *Ascophyllum nodosum*

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