Seven students from Maine universities delved into the science and practice of marine aquaculture this summer as part of an innovative new program developed by the University of Maine and University of Maine at Machias (UMM).
Students visited sites from Walpole to Eastport, led by UMaine Darling Marine Center director Heather Leslie and UMM professor Brian Beal.
Leslie and Beal developed the SEA (Science for Economic Impact & Application) Fellows initiative to catalyze university-industry partnerships related to the state’s marine economy.
“Students are hungry to learn more about how their developing skills as researchers can be applied to problems that really matter to Maine communities and marine businesses,” says Leslie, who also is the Libra Associate Professor in UMaine’s School of Marine Sciences.
“Students are hungry to learn more about how their developing skills as researchers can be applied to problems that really matter to Maine communities and marine businesses.” Heather Leslie
SEA Fellows, who hailed from Maine and other states, met with marine entrepreneurs at five industry sites — Mook Sea Farm in Walpole; Maine Coast Sea Vegetables in Hancock; Moosabec Mussels Inc. in Jonesport; A.C. Inc. in Beals; and Cooke Aquaculture in Eastport — during the weeklong orientation.
They also learned from researchers engaged in aquaculture-related work at the Darling Marine Center in Walpole, UMaine’s Center for Cooperative Aquaculture Research in Franklin, and the Downeast Institute for Applied Marine Research and Education in Beals.
One emerging theme the entrepreneurs shared with students on the tour: They are engaged in both aquaculture and traditional fisheries.
For instance, the kelp harvested by Maine Coast Sea Vegetables is collected from the wild, but company founder Shep Erhart is starting to culture kelp in collaboration with researchers from the UMaine School of Marine Sciences and Maine Sea Grant.
Moosabec Mussels CEO Ralph Smith is engaged in a similar collaboration focused on mussels with Beal, who also is the scientific director of the Downeast Institute.
Students say they particularly appreciated learning from industry leaders about how research informs business plans, and how science could be helpful in further building Maine’s marine economy. The SEA Fellows initiative is funded by a U.S. National Science Foundation award to Maine EPSCoR, which supports Sustainable Ecological Aquaculture Network (SEANET) projects statewide.