Researcher who found massive decline in blue mussels to speak at the DMC

Cascade Sorte, a biologist who documented a massive decline in wild blue mussels in the Gulf of Maine, will be at the University of Maine’s Darling Marine Center (DMC) in Walpole, on Thursday, October 6, to present a “brown-bag” seminar. Her talk, “Global change consequences and coping mechanisms in coastal marine systems,” starts at noon. Please bring your own brown bag lunch.

Recently, Sorte’s research has received national media attention because of her findings that blue mussels have decreased by more than 60 percent over the last 40 years. Once covering two-thirds of the intertidal zone, mussels now cover less than 15 percent.

“It would be like losing a forest,” Sorte, an assistant professor at the University of California, Irvine (UCI), told the Associated Press in September.

But the significance of her research goes beyond those alarming numbers. Climate change has already led to widespread changes in coastal marine systems, according to Sorte.

Recording how marine species have responded so far is a step toward understanding how they will—or won’t—survive in the future, when changes in the coastal environment are predicted to accelerate.

“There are several theories why the mussel decline happened—personally I think it is the result of green crabs—but before we can go very far into that line of research we need to know there is a widespread and distinct pattern,” said Bob Steneck, a University of Maine professor in the School of Marine Sciences, who is based at the DMC. “Cascade Sorte’s work did just that. It will be the foundation for most future research in that area.”

The study, which Sorte conducted with colleagues from UCI, was recently published in the Global Change Biology journal. The presentation will be a return to Maine for Sorte, who has been coming to the DMC as a visiting researcher since 2007.

For more information or a disability accommodation, please contact the Darling Marine Center at 207.563.3146.