Kristina officially starts as an Assistant Professor of Marine Mammal Science in the School of Marine Sciences on May 1. In this new position, Kristina will teach classes in marine mammals and ocean health, and build a research program focused on the ecology, evolution, and population health of marine mammal species in the Gulf of Maine and elsewhere.
Lynda Doughty, executive director and stranding coordinator, of Marine Mammals of Maine hosted a visit of several of our lab members to MMoME’s seal triage and rehabilitation center this past weekend. This was a particularly exciting visit for our students who have hours and hours of experience working with marine mammal stranding data in our custom-built electronic database, and our students who spend most of their time at a lab bench working with seal DNA. Lynda gave us a tour of the facility and shared stories and lessons learned from the past several months of crisis response to a federally-designated Unusual Mortality Event that more than tripled the number of seals they were called to respond to, compared to previous years. We talked about several ways to strengthen our partnership between the University of Maine and MMoME, with a particular focus on how students can be involved. To support one ongoing research collaboration, we also collected a water sample from a seal rehab pool for continued eDNA (environmental DNA) method development. Thank you, Lynda, for hosting our visit!
Our proposal entitled, Assessing predator risk to diadromous fish conservation in the Penobscot River Estuary, has received funding from the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund. With this funding, we are excited to develop new collaborations with Justin Stevens and Christine Lipsky, of the NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center’s Atlantic Salmon Ecosystems Research Team, and Mitch Simpson at Maine Department of Marine Resources’ Division of Sea-Run Fisheries. The funding will support an analysis of existing and ongoing datasets on marine mammal abundance on the Penobscot River, which have been collected for the past five years during NOAA’s monthly or bimonthly surveys of the river. Combined with their data on fish abundance from hydracoustic and trawl surveys, and DMR’s data on observed injuries on salmon at the Penobscot River dams, we hope to better understand the potential impact of seal populations on local salmon and sturgeon.
A secondary aim of this proposal is to begin to develop a seal photo-identification research program on the Penobscot River. This portion of the research will begin next summer, so stay tuned for some seal photos on an upcoming project website!