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CASTINE, Maine—Maine Maritime Academy has received a research grant in the amount of $93,605 from the Maine Economic Improvement Fund Small Campus Initiative to conduct rockweed research. Dr. Jessica Muhlin, Associate Professor of Marine Biology, will direct the project to conduct field and laboratory research on two types of seaweed: the commercially harvested Ascophyllum nodosumand the prevalent Fucus vesiculosus in order to understand their contributions to the near-shore food web and ecosystem.
“We know these two foundational species are important and utilized resources in near-shore environments,” said Dr. Muhlin, “but we want to learn more about their role in the food web. These seaweeds are so constantly under our feet we barely notice them, but they are vitally important to the intertidal ecosystem.”
Field research will focus on characterizing the near-shore food web to understand which organisms feed on rockweed reproductive material. This research will include collaboration with Dr. Kenneth H. Dunton of the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Dunton is one of the world’s leading specialists in stable isotope ecology. Dr. Brian Beal, Professor of Marine Ecology at the University of Maine at Machias, will collaborate on lab research to learn the importance of the two rockweeds’ reproductive material to the Mytilus edulis (blue mussel) diet. The 18-month research project will involve students from Maine Maritime Academy and the University of Maine at Machias. Proposed locations for field research include Holbrook Island, Schoodic Point and Great Wass Island.
Ultimately, the research will inform the scientific community and policy managers, such as the Maine Department of Marine Resources, of the contribution of surplus reproductive material for commercially-harvested rockweed; provide insight into rearing M. edulis in shellfish hatcheries; and provide substantial preliminary data for a competitive submission for federal funds.
“Maine Maritime Academy’s Ocean Studies program has offered faculty and students the opportunity to conduct intertidal research over the past 25 years,” said Dr. John Barlow, Vice President for Academic Affairs. “We are excited to lead this project, which could have significant impact on the knowledge base and on marine management locally and regionally.”
About Maine Maritime Academy
Maine Maritime Academy is a co-educational, public college on the coast of Maine offering 18 degree programs in engineering, management, science and transportation. The Corning School of Ocean Studies offers a hands-on approach, resulting in a Bachelor of Science degree in marine science or marine biology, with an optional dual degree: an Associate in Science in Small Vessel Operations. For more information, visit mainemaritime.edu.