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.

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: