Lab News

Emma Newcomb presents at 2018 SEA Fellows Symposium

By | Uncategorized

Emma Newcomb, a 2018 SEA Fellow and Cammen Lab undergraduate research assistant, presented her research at a public, student-focused symposium held at the Darling Marine Center in Walpole, Maine earlier this week.  The symposium was attended by >80 scientists, industry and community members, and the interested general public.  Over 20 undergraduate students presented posters about their summer research experience, all linked by a shared goal to improve our understanding of the Maine’s coastal ecosystem to help benefit our coastal communities and economies. You can read more about the 2018 SEA Fellows Symposium here.

Photo by Holland Haverkamp

Emma’s research focused on classifying and quantifying marine mammal-human interaction cases that are observed in Maine and recorded by our collaborating stranding organizations, Marine Mammals of Maine and Allied Whale.  Human interaction cases are currently categorized nationally as boat collision, gunshot, fisheries interaction, and “other”, and we are working to further describe this hard-to-define “other” category, which is this the most common type of human interaction for our stranded marine mammals in Maine.  These interactions are normally typified by a human approach within 150 yards and oftentimes referred to as marine mammal harassment.

We would like to acknowledge the University of Maine System’s Research Reinvestment Fund (RRF) for their support of Emma’s summer research experience, part of an Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Research Collaborative grant.  Emma will continue her research in this area during the academic year, supported by a NOAA Prescott grant.

Our new eDNA lab is up and running!

By | Research

This past week, Dr. Kristina Cammen and undergraduate research assistant, Liz Piotrowski, collected their first eDNA water samples at the Marine Mammals of Maine (MMoME) triage facility located in Harpswell, Maine. Thank you to Dominique Walk, MMoME’s assistant stranding coordinator, and several MMoME interns for their collaboration in this effort.

eDNA, short for environmental DNA, is free floating DNA that is left behind by an organism as it travels through an environment. We are working to develop protocols that will allow us to isolate and characterize this DNA, for example from a water sample collected in a seal rehab pool and ultimately from seawater samples collected near seal haul-out sites. Our hope is that these non-invasive sampling methods will enable future investigations of the genetic diversity and population structure of seals in the Gulf of Maine.

9/29/18: Updated to add that our first attempts to detect and sequence seal DNA from the MMoME facility have been successful!  We are now working to optimize our protocols so that we can distinguish between individuals that are present in the same pool of water.

Welcome, Alayna Hawkins!

By | Student News

The Cammen Lab welcomes their newest member, Alayna Hawkins, who begins an MS in Marine Biology program this summer.  A recent graduate of St. Francis College in Pennsylvania, with an interest in marine mammal science and genetics, Alayna joins the lab to conduct research on gray and harbor seal immunogenetics.  She hopes to help elucidate why gray seals appear more resistant than harbor seals to several viral diseases through an exploration of the genetic diversity of their immune systems.