Students share marine science research at fourth annual SEA Fellows Symposium

Megan Driscoll wants to replace plastic made of petroleum with plastic made of algae.

So this summer, the University of Maine intern made algae-based bioplastic and documented how it broke down over time in the Damariscotta River Estuary.

Driscoll, a junior marine science major from Chelmsford, Massachusetts, presented her project Aug. 6 at the fourth annual SEA Fellows Symposium at the University of Maine Darling Marine Center.

She was joined by 39 other SEA Fellows hailing from 13 different schools from throughout Maine and beyond. Each studies a marine topic in collaboration with a research mentor from a Maine university, and many also had industry professionals as project advisors.

SEA (Science for Economic Impact and Application) Fellows is an undergraduate training program led by UMaine and University of Maine at Machias, with support from Darling Marine Center, Downeast Institute and Maine EPSCoR.

The Fellows presented posters about how clams, oysters and other coastal species respond to changing environmental conditions; how changes to post-harvest storage of lobster may increase value; and emerging information on the ecological, economic and social factors that contribute to sustainable aquaculture and fisheries in Maine.

Event organizers were Heather Leslie, director of the DMC and UMaine associate professor of marine sciences, and Brian Beal, director of research at Downeast Institute and University of Maine at Machias professor of marine ecology.

“It was fantastic to see so many different people interested in Maine’s ocean and marine economy come together,” said Leslie. “And the students did a great job; sharing their science and explaining how each of their projects are advancing understanding and opportunities in Maine and beyond.”

UMaine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy and University of Maine System Chancellor Dannel Malloy welcomed the more than 100 participants to the DMC at the beginning of the event, after touring the waterfront laboratories and meeting some of the researchers and business incubator clients that work on the Walpole campus.

 The public symposium was preceded by a communications training for the students. Curt Brown of Ready Seafood Co. was the featured speaker.

Brown, a UMaine alum and marine biologist with the Portland-based wholesale lobster company, shared his perspective on the importance of research-industry partnerships, particularly in light of the rapidly changing environmental conditions that UMaine scientists and many others are observing in the Gulf of Maine.

The SEA Fellows program is designed to catalyze university-industry partnerships, and support undergraduate research related to Maine’s marine economy and the coastal marine ecosystems and human communities that support it. For more information about the program, visit the Darling Marine Center website or contact Heather Leslie at

 Founded in 1965, the Darling Marine Center’s mission is to connect people to the ocean. The center’s researchers, staff and students work alongside fishermen, aquaculture entrepreneurs, marine industry professionals and other members of the community in Maine and around the world. More information is available at