Applied Research in Marine Biology

In 1997, the Maine Legislature identified seven targeted areas for economic growth and potential. Aquaculture and Marine Sciences are included in these areas, and have been a primary focus of applied research efforts at the University of Maine at Machias for over two decades.

The Marine Biology research conducted at the University of Maine at Machias focuses primarily on the ecology and/or culture of commercially important marine species such as lobsters, soft-shell clams, as well as green sea urchins, sea scallops, and hard clams. Most of our work is conducted at UMM's marine field station in the town of Beals at the Downeast Institute for Applied Marine Research and Education (DEI).

The Marine Biology Program recently acquired a $255,000 grant to study the relationships between waste water and shellfish.

Relationships Between Wastewater and Shellfish

The UMM Marine Biology Program was recently awarded a grant to fund infrastructure and equipment needed to further integrate marine-based research into training, education and community outreach. Specifically, the funding will allow UMM students and faculty to expand their research program to include studying the effects of the Machias Wastewater Treatment Plant (MWTP) on growth and survival of softshell clams.

The proposed study will determine if the MWTP affects habitat and food supply for clams, and consider how it may affect genetic structure of shellfish populations. The information collected by UMM researchers will help predict how the MWTP, clam flat closures, and possible management activities may affect local economies that depend on shellfishing.

The $255,000 grant from the Marine Technology Institute (MTI) will provide funds to 1) renovate an existing classroom into a dedicated marine teaching and research laboratory, 2) acquire new and up-to-date equipment to further support marine research, 3) create a marine research seminar course to link students and faculty with local stakeholders to answer questions important to Downeast Maine, and 4) share information with the community through a research newsletter and publicly accessible website.

Researchers from the University of Maine at Machias have teamed up with staff at UMM’s marine field station at Black Duck Cove on Beals Island to assess regional aspects of growth and aging of the American lobster.

With support from Maine’s commercial fishermen and the Maine Department of Marine Resources, lobster juveniles are reared from eggs at the field station. Then, these penny-size animals are placed individually into flow-through, 1-gallon containers where they will spend two years living and growing by feeding on organisms that ultimately foul the containers (e.g., the larvae and early juveniles of barnacles, mussels, polychaete worms, and other small marine invertebrates).

The containers are placed within larger cages that look similar to lobster traps and then these cages are placed on the bottom of the ocean. The study is being conducted at six sites along the Maine coast: York, Boothbay Harbor, Tenants Harbor, Stonington, Beals Island, and Cutler.

To learn about culturing lobsters, see the article by Beal and Chapman, Journal of Shellfish Research 20(3): 2001 p. 337-346. To learn about similar work conducted on the West Coast of Ireland, see doi:10.1016/S0044-8486(02)00037-6.

Soft-shell Clams (Mya arenaria)

Since 1987, researchers and marine biology students from UMM have been working closely with many of Maine’s coastal communities to improve and enhance their clamming habitat. These efforts have occurred because UMM helped to create the first-ever shellfish hatchery devoted specifically to the culture and production of soft-shell clams.

Each summer, between 4-6 UMM students work with staff from the Downeast Institute on Beals Island to produce between 5-10 million clam juveniles for stock enhancement and research projects.

To date, research projects have been designed to assess the fate and growth of clam juveniles in intertidal areas with and without eelgrass (Zostera marina), to examine how clam survival is related to position along the tidal gradient from the high-tide to low-tide mark, to develop strategies for optimizing growth and survival based on stocking, or planting, density, and to learn about the effectiveness of various types of predator deterrent netting.

To learn about seasonal growth and survival of juvenile clams, see doi:10.1016/S0022-0981(01)00320-3. To learn about the effectiveness of predator netting, see doi:10.1016/S0044-8486(01)00900-0. To learn about how growth and survival of juvenile clams vary at several spatial scales, see doi:10.1016/j.jembe.2006.04.006.

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