January 08, 2019
A $7,000 grant awarded to the School of Marine Programs from the Morton Kelly Charitable Trust will help launch a long-term, student-led island ecosystem monitoring project on Ram Island.
Students will collect field-based measurements continuously for a period of years.
The work is particularly important since climate change has caused waters within the Gulf of Maine to warm faster than any other ocean body on the planet.
“By routinely monitoring a single area, we’ll produce a dataset of high-quality, high-resolution ecological information,” said Angela Cicia, lab coordinator. “That will provide insight into how a habitat is changing and if the resulting changes threaten the health and productivity of these areas.”
Gifted to UNE by the Art Girard family of Portland, Ram Island comprises one-acre of pristine land located two miles off-shore.
It is surrounded by fertile lobster fishing grounds and is home to seal haul outs, nesting sea birds, juvenile sea urchins and impressive biodiversity.
“This award allows us to take our first steps towards folding our very special asset of Ram Island into our students' education and experience,” remarked Adam St. Gelais, M.S., assistant research scientist and UNE NORTH assistant director for science. “It also marks a starting point from which the School of Marine Programs can begin to better understand the nature and ecology of this very special ecosystem that we have been entrusted with stewarding.”
In 2015 the commercial and recreational seafood industries within Maine yielded approximately $625 million and employed more than 39,000 individuals. To ensure they remain healthy and productive, we must understand how various stressors will drive change throughout these ecosystems.
Students will start off the research by focusing on the biodiversity of intertidal algae and invertebrate species, monitoring fish assembles, testing water quality and tracking other environmental data through a weather station that will be set up on the island.
“This will greatly increase hands-on learning opportunities for our students, which I think is a really awesome experience, whether it’s learning to use the equipment, trying different data collection techniques, or interpreting some of the patterns they see," Cicia explained. "Some of the work will be used for classes they’re in or they can go into even more detail through independent research projects.”
The project will get underway this summer with the first pieces of monitoring equipment installed on the island.