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 workspace 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.