A New Year...Another First

NOAA Team Research Bench

A pioneering experiment on juvenile sea scallops is being conducted on the Massachusetts Maritime Academy campus in conjunction with scientists from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Lab in Milford, CT. The purpose of the experiment, to determine how sea scallops are affected by ocean acidification due to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Acidification is happening everywhere, including the Gulf of Maine. That’s a very real problem because other than lobsters, sea scallops support one of the most valuable fisheries in the US at $500 million last year. New Bedford alone brings in close to $300 million in scallop revenues annually. The research team is trying to figure out how ocean acidification may affect (juvenile) scallop growth. While there is already a lot of research that has been done on other bivalves, there is very little data available when it comes to scallops. A lot of the data already being used comes from how oysters are affected. The NOAA’s Dr. Shannon Meseck said that this data can be misleading because they are two different species. Scallops thrive under colder conditions and will perish at temperatures above 21’ Celsius (71’ Fahrenheit), while oysters thrive at that temperature.

“National science studies like this create a buzz among our students,” says MMA’s Marine Science, Safety, and Environmental Protection (MSSEP) Dept. Chair Francis Veale. “Just walking through the lab gives everyone the sense of how important our programs are to future generations. This has been an amazing partnership.”   

The 8 week long experiment is taking place in the Aquaculture Lab on the MMA campus where the scientists are being assisted by MMA cadets. Sophomore Jack Gerrior (Middleboro, MA) and junior Heather Gaughan (Scituate, MA) have been attending to the experiment daily by growing algae and making sure that all of the apparatus is working. Both cadets are minoring in marine biology while majoring in the MSSEP. “It’s been awesome helping out on this experiment and working with NOAA scientists,” Gaughan said. Gerrior sees it similarly, “As students who aspire to work for NOAA after graduation, this experience is invaluable,”

Both of these cadets know where they want to be working in the future, work that will no doubt be important to not only the economic and marine health of the northeast US, but perhaps the world.