Posted February 27, 2013
This past summer Jessie Turner, Class 2013, received a Psi Upsilon Fellowship from Bowdoin’s Environmental Studies Department to work with Friends of Casco Bay. Friends of Casco Bay is an independent, community-based non-profit that uses scientific evidence for change to improve and protect the environmental health of Casco Bay. Friends of Casco Bay’s work involves education, advocacy, collaborative partnerships, and water quality monitoring programs. In 2012 Friends of Casco Bay set out see if ocean acidification, a worldwide threat, is having an effect here in Maine. Jessie was one Friend of the Bay who spent time in the mud measuring the pH on 30 clam flats around the bay.
Her overall project was to measure the pH of sediments in 30 clam flats around Casco Bay. 16 of these flats are currently productive. 14 of these sites are no longer productive but have been used by clammers in the past. The results from this hard work demonstrated that pH was significantly higher or less acidic at productive sites, and significantly lower or more acidic at sites that are no longer productive. Although there are no concrete answers, this survey may serve as a baseline for more pH research on the sediments of Casco Bay in the future.
Clamming contributes millions of dollars to the economies around Casco Bay, making the issue of unproductive clam flats important not only for the environment but also for the local economies. Excess CO2 in coastal waters shifts the chemical balance, lowering the amount of carbonate ions available for soft-shell clams to build their shells. Acidification could be causing once-productive clam flats to lose their ability to support this important resource. Due to importance of Jessie’s work, Life on the Coast magazine recently highlighted her work and the effort of Friends of Casco Bay to learn more about the clam flats. To read the article in Life on the Coast, click here.
Following the end of her internship, Jessie stated, “"It was thrilling to see that such a small organization can have such a huge positive impact on Casco Bay. I had the opportunity to do a huge variety of projects, especially research in the field. My main project was on an issue that is important but often understated, since clamming contributes millions of dollars to local economies in the area. I tried to not only gather good data, but to also raise awareness about how coastal acidification is a very local problem."