Scientists from Bigelow Laboratory and the University of Southern Maine have been studying the changes that have occurred at the mouth of the Marsh River since the dam that created Sherman Lake was breached by storms in 2005. The habitat has been re-colonized and re-vegetated at a surprising rate, offering an opportunity to strengthen an important population of wild Maine oysters. (8/01/2008)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE August 1, 2008
Contact: Tatiana Brailovskaya, Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences (207) 633-9633 firstname.lastname@example.org
WEST BOOTHBAY HARBOR, ME –The University of Southern Maine’s Dr. Karen Wilson joins Bigelow Laboratory’s Dr. Peter Larsen on Tuesday August 12 for a Café Scientifique gathering from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. at The Opera House on Townsend Avenue in Boothbay Harbor. They will talk with participants about Ecosystem Restoration—the Sherman Marsh Project.
In 1934, the Maine Department of Transportation constructed an earthen dam across the southern branch of the Marsh River at the US Route 1 crossing in Newcastle, Maine. Impounded freshwater created a shallow, 200- acre pond that supported flourishing freshwater aquatic plants and animals for the next 70 years. A heavy rainstorm in October 2005 caused a breach in the dam, drained the pond, and brought back tidal flushing with salt water. Since then, exposed marsh surface areas have become re-vegetated, and a diverse array of marine organisms have re-colonization the area.
Dr. Karen Wilson is on the faculty of the Department of Environmental Science and the Aquatic Systems Research Group at the University of Southern Maine. She has a Ph.D. in Limnology/Zoology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her current research focuses on freshwater-marine linkages, anadromous alewife populations, salt marsh restoration, and freshwater crayfish in Maine.
Dr. Peter Larsen is a Senior Research Scientist at Bigelow Laboratory. He received a Ph.D. in Marine Science from the College of William and Mary, specializing in estuarine ecology. He served as Maine State Oceanographer until joining the Bigelow Laboratory in 1976. His research focuses on marine biological diversity, environmental assessment of tidal power development and sea level change, geographical and historical ecology, and remote sensing of coastal environments.
According to Wilson and Larsen, the restoration of Sherman Marsh provides an opportunity to protect and strenghten a unique population of native American oysters. The Marsh River, at the mouth of Sherman Marsh, is the northernmost limit of self-sustaining American oysters in the United States, and the only wild population wholly in the State of Maine. As such, it may have genetic significance in the face of climate change. Its isolated location and limited habitat extent may also make it vulnerable to small-scale disturbances, disease, or pollution. Wilson has been monitoring the surprisingly rapid re-vegetation and re-colonization of the marsh for the past two years.
The restoration of Sherman Marsh offers the possibility of doubling the habitat area available for these oysters, potentially doubling their population size, and increasing the survivability of this critical gene pool.
Bigelow Laboratory’s Café Scientifique gatherings are organized as informal conversations with participants about current scientific issues, research, exploration, and the latest news from experts in the field. Short presentations are followed by discussion. The cafés are free, open to the public, and a cash bar is available. The Café Scientifique movement began in 1998 in England, and spread quickly throughout Europe and the United States (www.cafescientifique.org). There are over 150 science cafés organized over 40 countries that host regular get-togethers to bring science into our conversations and into our culture.
Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences (www.bigelow.org) is a center for global ocean discovery and home to ocean scientists from all over the world. The laboratory’s primary research focus is on the foundation of biological productivity in the world’s oceans and the processes that drive the interactions between ocean ecosystems and global environmental conditions. A private, non-profit research institution, Bigelow is supported by federal research grants and private funds. Bigelow scientists are committed to expanding our knowledge of ocean systems and sharing their findings with the scientific community and the general public. ###
Photo caption: Sherman Marsh, Summer 2008. Photo by G. Freeman.