Healthy Intertidal Stewardship
The intertidal faces multiple pressures. Understanding and indexing intertidal health allows managers to set targets and limits and focus efforts to maintain health in a dynamic, ever-changing edge system. But, what does it mean to have a healthy soft-sediment or rocky intertidal system? What is the role of foundation species in that healthy system, and how is health changing across a connected, larger system, in this case the Gulf of Maine? The Marine Ecology Program is studying these questions with the National Park Service and diverse stakeholders—harvesters, managers, regulators, artists, researchers, interpreters, and teachers. We also cooperate with other local organizations, government agencies, and local resource users through Frenchman Bay Partners.
Rockweed, Ascophyllum nodosum, is both a dominant feature of protected rocky shorelines and a harvested resource, contributing 90% of Maine’s $20M seaweed industry. How do pressures such as increasing harvest pressure as well as a changing climate affect the foundation role of rockweed? How do resource management decisions and conservation efforts affect harvest? What role does research on conserved lands play in understanding the role of rockweed? Our research interests include: How does harvest affect the foundation role played by rockweed—by changing architecture and by changing the regulatory effects on light, temperature, and wave action. The research also seeks to understand whether there are differences in harvest-related effects at high tide versus low tide. We are working with collaborators at the University of Maine, Maine Maritime Academy, and College of the Atlantic.
Assessing Rockweed by Air, Land & Sea
Characterizing the statewide biomass of rockweed is foundational to sustainable resource management, and is essential to understanding the dynamics and stability of nearshore food webs. Measuring rockweed in the field along the entire 3,500-mile coast of Maine is labor intensive and infeasible. The most accurate estimates require the integration of biomass measurements on the ground, and processes that can estimate biomass remotely such as aerial photography. With support from the Broad Reach Fund (2020), we are coordinating the collection of rockweed biomass data in the field, and integrating the results with data collected using Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS, a.k.a. drones). We are collecting the UAS data with research partners (Maine Maritime Academy, Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, and NearView, LLC) as part of a separately funded project. Through Fall 2021, we will recruit, train, and work with citizen scientists from differing stakeholder groups (including, but not limited to, harvesters, resource managers, land owners, and conservation organizations) to measure rockweed biomass at multiple locations along the coast of Maine using our newly developed rockweed biomass citizen science protocol. We will then integrate our field data with UAS data to refine remote methods to more accurately map, monitor, and measure rockweed along the coast of Maine.
Regional Coastal Monitoring
Schoodic is a member of the Northeastern Coastal Stations Alliance, which aims to understand patterns of change across the Gulf of Maine. We use standardized coupled intertidal biotic and abiotic data collection from fixed coastal field stations. With data from these fixed points we can understand patterns of spatial, and with time, temporal change along the edge of the Gulf. The alliance has been funded by Maine Sea Grant and an NSF FSML planning grant. NeCSA data allows us to put our data on a healthy intertidal into the context of the larger region. NeCSA has been developing a tiered protocol system so that citizen scientists can collect data at additional sites on conserved lands. These data are to be accessible for citizen scientists and communities to use for education and management.
Schoodic Institute has deployed instruments to monitor ocean chemistry off Schoodic Island to better understand ocean acidification in this part of the Gulf of Maine. The SeapHOx continuously measures ocean acidity, temperature, salinity, and dissolved oxygen. There are currently two other fixed-point, near-shore sensors like the SeapHOx collecting data in the Gulf of Maine, one in Casco Bay, and the other offshore in waters near the Isles of Shoals.