All Posts By

Kristina Cammen

New Graduate Training Program in Ecosystem Science

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We are excited to announce a new NSF funded National Research Traineeship (NRT) program in Ecosystem Science! This new graduate training program represents a collaboration across multiple disciplines, including marine sciences, anthropology, computer sciences, and Native American studies.  Over the next five years, this new program will train at least 45 master’s and doctoral studies in a convergent approach to ecosystem science, which emphasizes new ways of understanding and creating data, knowledge, and tools to enable ecosystem-based approaches in marine systems.  The Cammen Lab is excited to be part of this new program and anticipates recruiting 1-2 graduate students in Fall 2025.  Check out the website to learn more about the new program and the other faculty who are involved.

Our National Research Traineeship is made possible by the generous support of the National Science Foundation (# 2244117).

Collaboration with CCS on Cape Cod

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Julia Sunnarborg (PhD candidate), Jamie Fogg (Maine Top Scholar undergraduate student), and Kristina Cammen traveled to Cape Cod earlier this week to sample gray seal eDNA in collaboration with the Center for Coastal Studies. This collaboration, which has been ongoing for several years, is testing innovative new environmental DNA (eNDA) tools for non-invasive sampling of marine mammals. On this trip, we tried pushing the envelope to see how far from a haul-out we can detect gray seal eDNA and whether eDNA concentrations vary across the depth profile.  Thank you to Christy Hudak, Lisa Sette, and Liz Bradfield for a beautiful day on the water with lots of seals (and even some whales)!

This research is conducted under the Northeast Fisheries Science Center NOAA Research Permit 21719.

Fieldnotes on Grief

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Cammen Lab PhD student, Alice Hotopp, recently published an essay on her personal experience with ecological grief in Spire, The Maine Journal of Conservation and Sustainability.  Earlier this semester, she led our lab group in a discussion of this topic, and its relevance to our research on protected and endangered species.  Check out her beautiful words and thoughtful perspectives here: 

Leveraging Data to Understand Gray Seal Health

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Cammen Lab PhD student, Christina McCosker, was featured in this month’s UMaine ARCSIM newsletter.  ARCSIM is the Advanced Research Computing, Security & Information Management CORE service at the University of Maine.  This service center helps connect our lab group with the powerful computing resources and staff expertise that we need to conduct our genomic data analysis.  To learn more about this, check out the article on Christina’s research:

Kristina tells her story during Mitchell Center Seminar

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Dr. Kristina Cammen presented a talk as part of the Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions seminar series on September 26.  The talk, entitled “Out of Our Depth: Interdisciplinary science for marine mammal conservation,” told two stories: one story followed the seals from a history of exploitation to present day protection and recovery; the second story told Kristina’s professional path. With an emphasis on integrating diverse fields of science and ways of knowing, Kristina shared her personal journey towards interdisciplinary science for marine mammal conservation and the promising impact she sees for this type of work in the field.

A summary of Kristina’s talk can be reviewed in this article by Maine Campus Media.   You can also watch the recorded talk here.

New publications on marine mammal strandings

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We are excited to announce two recent publications resulting from our long-term spatiotemporal analysis of marine mammal strandings in the Gulf of Maine. This research represents a collaboration between the University of Maine and members of the Greater Atlantic Region marine mammal stranding network, including Marine Mammals of Maine and Allied Whale. From the Cammen lab, Holland Haverkamp and Emma Newcomb both played leadership role in the analysis, and were supported by many other Cammen Lab undergraduate research assistants.  To learn more, check out our new pubs!

Haverkamp et al. (2022) A retrospective socio-ecological analysis of seal strandings in the Gulf of Maine. Marine Mammal Science.

Newcomb et al. (2021) Breaking down “harassment” to characterize trends in human interaction cases in Maine’s pinnipeds. Conservation Science and Practice.

Funding for this research was provided by a NOAA John H. Prescott Marine Mammal Rescue Assistance Grant (NA18NMF4390041).

REU Amanda Cruz presents her research on seal immunogenetics

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This summer, the Cammen Lab was lucky to host Amanda Cruz, an undergraduate student from Florida International University, who completed a 10-week research internship as part of the One Health REU program. Amanda’s research expanded our prior work on understanding the genetic diversity of the pinniped immune system. Amanda compared diversity at the MHC I gene of harbor seals that died during the recent outbreak of phocine distemper virus to harbor seals that survived the disease outbreak.  Her research will help us understand which seals are more susceptible to disease and why.

Amanda’s internship culminated with an oral and poster presentation at the REU final symposium.

Cammen Lab at SMM

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The Cammen Lab, past and present, had a great showing, in person and virtual, at the 24th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals.  Cammen Lab activities at the conference included:

Dr. Kristina Cammen co-organized the 2nd Workshop on Marine Mammal eDNA

Lauri Leach presented a speed talk, Examining the impacts of pinnipeds on Atlantic salmon: The effects of river restoration on predator-prey interactions. 

Christina McCosker presented a poster, Molecular mechanisms underlying response to influenza in gray seals, a potential wild reservoir.

Emma Newcomb presented a poster, Breaking down “harassment” to characterize trends in human interaction cases in Maine’s pinnipeds

Julia Sunnarborg presented a poster, Optimization of environmental DNA for gray seal detection and population genetics.

Dr. Cammen receives award for faculty mentoring

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Dr. Kristina Cammen was honored this week to be nominated and recognized by her students for her role as their mentor. Each year, students are asked to nominate faculty who have had an important impact on them, and Kristina was one of the faculty recognized with a University of Maine Faculty Impact Award during this year’s Maine Impact Week.

“Kristina is endlessly positive and puts an optimistic spin on research challenges… Kristina is also very welcoming and inclusive and has created a lab culture where even students who tend to be quieter have the space to participate in discussion.” – Alice Hotopp, PhD candidate


Emma Newcomb receives High Honors

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Emma Newcomb received High Honors today after defending her Honors thesis entitled Breaking down “harassment” to characterize trends in human interaction cases in Maine’s pinnipeds. Emma’s work represented the culmination of three years of work in collaboration with Marine Mammals of Maine and Allied Whale. As part of this research collaboration, Emma led the development of a new scheme for categorizing human interaction cases with seals that strand on the beaches in Maine, and put her new scheme to work, characterizing trends in human interaction cases over the past decade.

Emma will graduate this spring from the University of Maine with Honors and a Bachelors degree in Marine Sciences.  After graduation, she will continue to work with the marine mammal stranding network and pursue graduate school opportunities.