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.

Lauri Leach successfully defends her Masters

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Congratulations to Lauri Leach, who defended her Masters thesis, entitled Assessing predator risk to diadromous fish conservation in the Penobscot River Estuary. Lauri’s research assessed both the potential impact (through a spatiotemporal analysis of seal and prey distribution) and realized impact (through an analysis of seal-induced injury on Atlantic salmon) of seals in the Penobscot River. She also developed a photo-identification catalog of seals for future tracking of individuals in the Penobscot River. To learn more about Lauri’s fieldwork on the Penobscot River, check out her blog posts here.

Please join us in congratulating Lauri on this professional milestone and wishing her well on her next adventure as a Knauss fellow for the Marine Mammal Commission in Washington, DC!

Emma Newcomb’s research featured by UMaine

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Emma Newcomb has spent this semester conducting research on the cases in our state-wide marine mammal stranding database that involve human interaction with seals.  This work is part of our current NOAA Prescott grant-sponsored research and Emma’s role in the research is supported by an award from the Center for Undergraduate Research.  Emma’s research was recently featured by UMaine in a series on ongoing undergraduate research leading up to our annual UMaine Student Symposium.  Check out her video, produced by Cammen Lab member, Holland Haverkamp.


Season’s greetings!

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Season’s greetings and Happy New Year from the Cammen lab! Check out UMaine’s season’s greetings video, featuring our very own Alayna Hawkins (at 0:42 into the video), in a photo taken by our very own Holland Haverkamp. It’s great to see our students representing what lab work can look like at the University of Maine.

Best wishes to all for a happy, healthy, and productive 2019!