With the start of a new year and a new semester, it’s time to welcome new and returning members of the Cammen Lab. This semester, Emma Newcomb, Sarah Burton, and Holland Haverkamp have returned to the lab to continue their research on marine mammal stranding rates in Maine. Kai LaSpina is continuing her research on genetic relatedness of mass stranded Atlantic white-sided dolphins. Sarah Vincze continues her Capstone literature review on the effects of HABs on bottlenose dolphins and is back in the lab, after a semester at the Darling Marine Center, to collaborate on various marine mammal genetics projects. Faythe Goins is preparing to defend her Honors thesis on loggerhead sea turtle nesting trends in South Carolina later this spring. This semester, we also welcome two new members: Emma Spies, a freshman UMaine Top Scholar, who will be initiating a project on immunogenetic diversity in gray and harbor seals, and Liz Piotrowski, who is starting her Capstone research on Atlantic white-sided dolphin sightings in the Gulf of Maine. It’s exciting to have a great group of students involved in our research and we all look forward to a productive semester! You can learn more about these students and opportunities to join the Cammen Lab here.
As a final project, this year’s INT308 (Marine Mammal Ecology and Conservation) undergraduate students produced the inaugural Marine Mammals in the News online publication. From whales to manatees, from the Arctic to Mexico, from conservation to physiology, and much more – check out the stories they wrote, highlighting marine mammal science that has been published within the last year.
We are pleased to announce the recent publication of our study of genetic diversity among archaeological and contemporary gray and harbor seals from the Northwest Atlantic. In our paper, we describe finding greater genetic diversity in both seal populations prior to the bounties of the early and mid-1900s. We further present evidence that is consistent with the potential loss of a historical Maine subpopulation of gray seals. These findings are significant to the discussion of how to manage gray and harbor seals today as their populations recover along parts of Maine, Massachusetts, and the Canadian Maritimes.
The co-authors on this paper include undergraduate Sarah Vincze, graduate student Sky Heller, and professor Mike Kinnison from the University of Maine, as well as collaborators from NOAA NEFSC, Canada DFO, Tufts University, and St. Mary’s University. The project was enhanced by the diverse perspectives of geneticists, ecologists, field biologists, and archaeologists.
Our paper can be found here, or feel free to contact me directly for more information.
Cammen KM, Vincze S, Heller AS, McLeod BA, Wood SA, Bowen WD, Hammill MO, Puryear WB, Runstadler J, Wenzel FW, Kinnison M, Frasier TR (2018) Genetic diversity from bottleneck to recovery in two sympatric pinniped species in the Northwest Atlantic. Conservation Genetics. 19: 555-569.
This past month has been a wonderful whirlwind of work-related travel, to and from Canada (twice!) and roundabout Maine. I kicked off the month with a trip to the University of New Brunswick in St. John to give an invited seminar to the Biology Department. The following week, I ferried across the Bay of Fundy to the Society for Marine Mammalogy biennial conference held this year in Halifax. Finally, earlier this week I gave a seminar at Maine Maritime Academy.
These varied opportunities provided a great avenue to share our research with diverse audiences – from students to faculty, and from stakeholders to managers – in diverse formats – from a 4 minute speed-talk to 1-hr seminars. I was particularly excited to speak about cross-border marine mammal issues in both Canada and the US, and I enjoyed meeting many new people as well as catching up with old friends and colleagues. Thank you to Scott Pavey, Jessica Muhlin, and SMM for hosting my visits!
Cammen KM (2017) Molecular perspectives on conservation success: a tale of two seals in the Northwest Atlantic. Maine Maritime Academy Marine Sciences Seminar Series, Castine, ME.
Cammen KM, Vincze S, Heller S, McLeod B, Wood S, Bowen WD, Hammill MO, Puryear WB, Runstadler JR, Wenzel F, Kinnison M, Frasier TF (2017) Genetic diversity from pre-bottleneck to recovery in sympatric pinnipeds in the Northwest Atlantic. 22nd Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals, Halifax, NS.
Cammen KM (2017) Genomic perspectives on protected species recovery: a case of two pinnipeds in the Northwest Atlantic. University of New Brunswick Department of Biological Sciences Seminar Series, St. John, NB.
This past weekend, 19 undergraduate students from the University of Maine and Dr. Kristina Cammen traveled aboard the Schoodic Ferry from Bar Harbor to Winter Harbor to check out the Schoodic Center whale museum. On the way, (amidst the fog) they spotted harbor porpoise and gray seal, several sea birds, and interesting upwelling patterns. The students also had the opportunity to talk with a professional marine mammal observer, and learn about internship opportunities to do the same aboard the scientific data-collecting ferry next summer. Thank you Kaitlyn Mullen and Frenchman Bay Research Boating for a great day on the water!
The Cammen Lab is seeking a graduate student interested in applying transcriptomic techniques to research questions related to marine mammal health. Example projects may include studying the cetacean stress response to noise exposure or immunogenomics of gray and harbor seals. In our lab we encourage students to explore interdisciplinary, collaborative research opportunities, including participation in lab work, field work, and bioinformatic training. Graduate students will have the opportunity to engage with colleagues in the School of Marine Sciences and Ecology & Environmental Sciences Program, as well as the new interdisciplinary Center for One Health and the Environment at the University of Maine.
Prospective students must hold a Bachelor’s degree in biology, ecology, evolution, genetics, bioinformatics, or a related field. Preferred candidates will have a Masters degree or equivalent experience, and prior experience with molecular analyses. Interested students with prior experience in non-model species genomics are highly encouraged to contact me.
Prospective students are strongly encouraged to apply for external funding, such as NSF graduate research fellowships, and I am happy to help support these funding applications, following initial conversations regarding your research interests and fit for our lab.
Interested qualified applicants are encouraged to email a cover letter and CV/resume to Kristina Cammen (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Kristina presented her findings on the impacts of historical bottleneck, recent recovery, and geographic expansion in gray and harbor seals* at the Gordon Research Conference (GRC) on Ecological and Evolutionary Genomics in Biddeford, Maine. GRC’s are scientific meetings with an explicit focus on cutting-edge research and promoting scientific discussion. This year’s meeting spanned the spectrum from model to non-model system, and from theoretical to empirical. It left me feeling inspired and excited to apply new sequencing technologies and analytical pipelines to marine mammal species in an effort to better understand their ecology and evolution.
*Stay tuned for new publications that summarize this work soon!
In collaboration with new marine physiology professor, Nishad Jayasundara, and collaborators at Duke University, we’ve published our findings on the cost of evolving tolerance to anthropogenic pollutants in the Atlantic killifish. These fish represent a “natural experiment” in which to study the evolution of toxin resistance; they have evolved the ability to survive exposure to high levels of PAHs, making it possible to inhabit Superfund sites in the Elizabeth River, Virginia. In this system, our new paper explores the hypothesis that the evolution of resistance to one stressor makes organisms more susceptible to other stressors. For more information, check out our paper here.
Congratulations to Amanda Shuman, who successfully defended her Honors thesis entitled The Potential Impact of Climate Change on Blue Whale Migration in the Eastern Pacific. Amanda, who was co-advised by Drs. Kristina Cammen and Fei Chai, focused on three main topics for her literature review-based thesis: current blue whale migration patterns, current conditions of blue whale calving and foraging grounds, and climate change projections for those key areas. Through her synthesis of the current literature on these topics, she concludes that the foraging grounds (in particular local krill abundance) are likely to be more dramatically impacted by climate change than the calving grounds, and accordingly blue whales will likely have to extend their current migration route to find sufficient prey in the warming subpolar waters.
This fall, Amanda will begin a Masters program in Environmental Science at the University of New Haven. We wish her luck in her next steps!