Marine Ecologists Share Research at Bowdoin's Coastal Studies Center

Story posted May 13, 2008

Marine conference participants
Symposium participants confer during poster presentations.

By Ian Haight '08

Marine ecologists from 17 institutions across New England gathered at Bowdoin's Coastal Studies Center May 2–3, 2008, to discuss some of the most pressing ecological issues affecting the Gulf of Maine.

The State of Marine Ecology in Maine Symposium featured talks by 20 speakers and included 20 poster presentations highlighting current research in marine organisms, habitats, and responses to climate change.

Researchers shared their investigations on a wide range of topics, including the effects of climate change on Maine's lobster fishery; food web dynamics in Penobscot Bay; fertilization in sea urchins; the invasive green crab; intertidal spawning; and the ecological history and geochemistry of shell middens along the New Meadows River.

"The Bowdoin Symposium is a wonderful opportunity to learn about the wealth of marine science that is ongoing in New England," noted participant Jonathan Grabowski, a research scientist at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute. "Bowdoin has started a rich tradition that is fostering a stronger sense of community for marine scientists from throughout the region."

Conference participants
Participants (l to r) William Ambrose, professor of biology, Bates College; Jon Allen, Doherty Marine Biology Postdoctoral Scholar, Bowdoin College; Margaret Pizer, The Nature Conservancy; Bowdoin Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology Kurt Bretsch

Although the research centered on a wide variety of topics, a common thread emerged from many of the presentations: the warming of the planet is having an effect on marine ecology.

"Everyone is interested in how changing temperatures affect native and invasive species in the Gulf," noted the symposium organizer Jon Allen, Bowdoin's Doherty Marine Biology Postdoctoral Scholar. "Is climate change good or bad for the lobster fishery, for instance? In the short range it may improve growth and reproduction of lobsters, but over the long term it may reduce size at maturity and increase susceptibility to disease. There are a lot of different perspectives on what the answer is going to be."

The symposium also included roughly 20 students from various institutions, many of whom presented their own research in poster sessions. For Bowdoin senior Nick Alcorn '08, the symposium provided a forum for presenting his ongoing research on larval echinoids, a group that includes sea urchins and sand dollars.

Nick Alcorn
Nick Alcorn '08 stands in front of his research poster.

"I have been doing marine biology research with Jon Allen at the Coastal Studies Center, which is culminating in an honors thesis and soon-to-be article publication, so attending the symposium lectures was an excellent way to complement and conclude my research experience at Bowdoin," said Alcorn.

The symposium also gave participants their first introduction to the new CSC dock facility, which will allow students and researchers broad access to coastal environments and research in Harpswell Sound and beyond.

The State of Marine Ecology in Maine Symposium was sponsored by the Rusack Coastal Studies Symposium Fund, which was founded by Geoffrey C. Rusack '78 and Alison Wrigley Rusack. It is the second marine ecology symposium hosted by the Bowdoin Coastal Studies Center.

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