All Posts By

Kristina Cammen

Developing as a researcher through eDNA

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Jamie Fogg, a Maine Top Scholar and undergraduate research assistant in the Cammen Lab, was recently featured in the Maine Epscor newsletter. Check out the article which describes her research and how she got here.

Kristina, Julia, and Jamie sampling eDNA with collaborators from Center for Coastal Studies

Jamie has worked on multiple projects as part of the Maine-eDNA research program and developed and funded her own research with a grant from the University of Maine Center for Undergraduate Research.  This past year, Jamie conducted a study in collaboration with the Center for Coastal Studies,  and co-advised by PhD student Julia Sunnarborg, which expands our understanding of eDNA dynamics around seal haulout sites. Her poster presentation of this research at the UMaine Student Symposium won the award for best undergraduate poster in Natural Sciences.

Marine Mammals at the Belfast Library

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As part of a K-12 STEAM education program in collaboration with 4-H, several members of the Cammen Lab recently visited the Belfast Free Library to share their knowledge and passion about marine mammals with a group of elementary and middle school-aged children. Their program, Flippers, Fins and Fur: Exploring Marine Mammals, engaged participants in matching photographs of whales, extracting DNA from strawberries, and finding prey (pasta) in seal scat (play dough).  These activities conveyed the diverse array of techniques that we use in our lab to learn about marine mammals, and we were excited to share them with aspiring Ocean Xplorers in a coastal Maine town!

Christina McCosker, Julia Sunnarborg, Sydney Ulland, and Ella Offerdahl (left to right)

Alice Hotopp publishes paper on feather microbiome

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Happy New Year! To start off your science in 2024, check out this new paper recently published by PhD candidate Alice Hotopp and our colleagues at UMaine and UNH who are part of an NSF-funded project, Genomic Ecology of Coastal Organisms. In this paper, Alice describes for the first time the bacterial and fungal communities that are found on feathers of sparrow species that are uniquely adapted to salt marsh habitats.  This research is an important first step in understanding the co-evolution of hosts and microbiomes in the salt marsh environment.

Hotopp AMb, Olsen BJ, Ishaq SL, Frey SD, Kovach AI, Kinnison MT, Gigliotti FN, Roeder MR, Cammen KM (2024) Tidal marsh sparrow plumage microorganism communities. iScience. 27: 108668.

Our Maine: Exploring Its Rich Natural Heritage

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This past year, I had the opportunity to work with a great group of colleagues on a new book describing Maine’s rich natural heritage.  The book, Our Maine: Exploring Its Rich Natural Heritage, is a series of chapters, essays, and photographs that “paint a vivid portrait of Maine’s wild places and wild creatures, as well as of human impacts and the way the state’s heritage has changed.”  My contribution tracks the history and contemporary state of harbor seals in Maine.

To check out our book, you can purchase it online or at many local bookstores in Maine!


Jamie Fogg receives CUGR fellowship

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Jamie Fogg holding an eDNA sampler.

Jamie Fogg, a Maine Top Scholar and undergraduate student working in the Cammen Lab, was recently awarded a fellowship from the University of Maine’s Center for Undergraduate Research (CUGR).  We are so excited to work with Jamie on her research project, “Beyond the shoreline: Investigating gray seal eDNA in coastal waters.” Co-advised by Kristina Cammen and Julia Sunnarborg, Jamie will use qPCR to analyze eDNA samples she collected with collaborators at the Center for Coastal Studies earlier this year off the coast of Cape Cod. Her research aims to better understand the dynamics of environmental DNA (eDNA) around gray seal haulouts.


Using eDNA for Penobscot River recovery

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Check out the latest UMaine press release about our research collaboration with Maine Sea Grant, NOAA, and Maine DMR to improve our understanding of river herring recovery in the Penobscot River.  Funded by the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund, this research explores environmental DNA (eDNA) as a complementary survey tool to existing hydroacoustic surveys of fish in the Penobscot River Estuary.  Julia Sunnarborg, a PhD candidate in the Cammen Lab, is leading this research in close collaboration with Justin Stevens at Maine Sea Grant.

A photo of a person taking a water sample

Photo courtesy of Maine Sea Grant

Seal research featured on Maine Public Television

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Maine Public’s new outdoor series, Borealisrecently featured a visit to the Cammen Lab to talk with Kristina, Christina, and Julia about their seal research.  Our research stories were complemented by video footage from the Marine Mammals of Maine rehabilitation facility during pup season.  Check it out to learn more about the work we do at UMaine and with our collaborators in the stranding network!

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.