September 11, 2015
Senator Angus King toured the University of New England’s Marine Science Center in Biddeford to learn about the center’s newest innovative programs, including its new Marine Entrepreneurship program. UNE President Danielle Ripich greeted Senator King.
Barry Costa-Pierce, Ph.D., Henry L. & Grace Doherty Professor and chair of the Department of Marine Sciences and director of the Marine Science Center, began King’s tour by discussing the unique benefits afforded by the center’s location on the ocean and its recent acquisition of Ram Island. “Our students profit from hands-on, experiential learning from the outset,” said Costa-Pierce. “We have a unique living laboratory from the mountains to the sea right next to our campus.”
Costa-Pierce explained to King the redesign of the Marine Sciences Department’s academic programs – new configurations, he said, that align all academic programs with the specific needs of Maine’s coastal communities – marine sciences for the marine economy.
According to Costa-Pierce, the department has eight academic degrees, programs and tracks that foster interdisciplinary, team science to address vital concerns of local communities along Maine’s coast, such as the new degree program in Marine Entrepreneurship. “It was particularly special to see the Senator spending time to chat with a delegation from Harpswell - where’s he’s from – professionals who were at our center to develop new cooperative research and education programs. So it’s not only just science, we go much further,” said Costa-Pierce. “It’s using that science to make good policy decisions, develop good governance, and expand our marine economy.”
One transdisciplinary project to which King was introduced is The Undergraduate Saco River Biodiversity Observatory Project (Project TURBO), led by Associate Professor Markus Frederich, Ph.D., and funded by a $640K National Science Foundation grant, which offers interdisciplinary marine experiences on the Saco River estuary and bay to all UNE students in the natural sciences.
King also toured the laboratories that make up the Marine Science Center’s “Ocean Clusters,” UNE’s new marine learning centers. He visited the microalgae biotechnology laboratory, where he observed the culturing of the primary source of food for shellfish and bioproducts and also learned of the importance of the development of this form of aquaculture to the local shellfish industry. Additionally, he visited the oyster laboratory, discussing with undergraduate student Sean Curry his work to identify oyster varieties that grow fast and ensure hardiness, a potential boon to Maine’s growing oyster economy.
“When it comes to Maine, our ocean resources are some of our greatest assets. And effectively utilizing federal grants to support collaborative research efforts that will help us harness those resources and drive our future is critically important,” Senator King said. “The University of New England is on the cutting edge of that work, and I commend the talented faculty and students for all that they have done and thank them for the opportunity to visit the impressive Marine Science Center today.”