First Year UMaine Students Dive into Marine Sciences at Darling Marine Center

The University of Maine Darling Marine Center hosted a three-day orientation program last week for 27 first-year students in the School of Marine Sciences.

William “Wge” Ellis, associate director of UMaine SMS, leads the annual boot camp, in cooperation with DMC Director Heather Leslie and the other eight UMaine faculty based at the Walpole campus.

“We have an amazing facility on the midcoast, the Darling Marine Center, and I just love to bring students to Walpole as part of their introduction to UMaine,” says Ellis, who also is an associate professor of oceanography.

The marine sciences boot camp provides an opportunity for students to become acquainted with facilities and faculty based at UMaine’s marine laboratory in Walpole. It also introduces students to the methods that marine scientists use to study the biology, chemistry, physics and human dimensions of coastal and ocean ecosystems.

The program begins in Orono, where students move into their dorm rooms and meet some of the faculty and students with whom they will work over the next four years.

They then head to the DMC, where they’re introduced to some of the more than 50 faculty, staff, and graduate students based in Walpole through activities in and around the Damariscotta River Estuary.

Students learn about the ecology of the estuary, including mudflats and rocky shores. They hear from scientists engaged in aquaculture, fisheries, and coastal ecology research at UMaine’s 180-acre campus in Walpole.

They also learn about summer internship opportunities and the Semester by the Sea program, during which they can spend a fall immersed in hands-on marine science projects in the midcoast.

“Undergraduate students are at the heart of what we do at the DMC – they conduct research with us, they learn with us, and they are core partners in the work we do in collaboration with community and industry partners,” noted Leslie. “It’s so exciting to welcome a new group of students to Marine Sciences and the DMC.

The orientation helps students chart the course of their academic careers and develop connections with other students that can last throughout their time at UMaine and beyond.

The marine sciences boot camp is a keystone strategy of the SMS to recruit, retain and support students throughout their time at the university. This year, the boot camp was one of 29 Research Learning Opportunities offered to UMaine first- and second-year students. Details are available 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