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The Wrack

The Wrack is the Wells Reserve blog, our collective logbook on the web.

Gulf of Maine 2050 Symposium

Posted by | December 19, 2019 | Filed under: Program Activities

In early November, Portland hosted the Gulf of Maine 2050 International Symposium and the Wells Reserve was in the thick of it. The symposium focused on "challenges and opportunities for regional resilience in the face of climate change," which is right up our alley. Several staffers presented talks or posters. Some reflected on the event afterward.

Presentations | Reflections


These abbreviated descriptions of talks and posters involving reserve staff are adapted from the full program at Reserve staff are shown in boldface.

Are Small Coastal Businesses Thinking About Disaster Preparedness?

Anne Cox (presenter), Chris Feurt, Lynne Vachon, Laura Dolce, Werner Gilliam

Coastal businesses are a powerful economic engine for Maine and their recovery after disasters is important to a region’s economy. But businesses are generally little prepared for storm surge and coastal flooding. We helped business owners assess their vulnerability to the impacts of a natural disaster using the Tourism Resilience Index.

Environmental DNA (eDNA) Ecosystem Monitoring in the Gulf of Maine

Jason Goldstein (presenter), Laura Crane (presenter), Alison Watts, Devin Thomas, Kelley Thomas

Advances in DNA methods and rapid reductions in analytical costs present an opportunity to harness a new technology for monitoring biological communities and species. We are developing biodiversity profiles, evaluating eDNA for fish community surveys, and providing guidance on challenges associated with using eDNA for detecting invasive crabs.

Download the eDNA Poster

Ocean Acidification Impairs the Ability of American Lobsters (Homarus americanus) to Respond to Food Odors

Benjamin C. Gutzler (presenter), Winsor H. Watson III, Jason S. Goldstein

Studies on the effects of ocean acidification on lobsters has focused mostly on physiology, but acidic ocean waters can also alter lobster behavior. In the lab, we found that a lower pH causes lobsters to take longer to react to and locate food items. Impaired olfaction may alter foraging success and social behaviors, as well as efficacy of baited traps in the lobster fishery.

Download the OA Poster

Ichthyoplankton Community Structure, Abundance, and Diversity in the Gulf of Maine

Jeremy Miller (presenter), Eric Bjorkstedt, Laura Crane (presenter), Jason Goldstein

We have studied community structure, diversity, and abundance of larval fishes in the Webhannet River estuary through year-round ichthyoplankton sampling for more than 10 years. In 469 sampling events, we obtained 7,570 individuals of 35 fish species, more than any comparable study in the Gulf of Maine.

Download the Larval Fish Poster

Forecasting Ocean Chemistry

In addition, Jason Goldstein co-presented two linked posters with partners from multiple institutions, one to develop a predictive model for ocean and coastal acidification thresholds, and another to ascertain how best to incorporate model-based forecasts into the daily work of coastal businesses and coastal managers.

Download the Thresholds Poster



A great Wells NERR representation at the GOM 2050 Symposium this week. Certainly got my nuggets of good knowledge and conversations with folks, but was especially impressed with Annie's lightning talk, and the great posters by Laura and Jeremy on eDNA and larval fish as well as a couple on ocean acidification that we were part of.

I also wanted to give both Laura and Katrina a shout out for submitting proposals as part of the Collaborative Action Grants, as well as receiving scholarships that gave each of these individuals free registrations and hotel for the entire week! They were resourceful and creative. Nice work.


I had a lot of great conversations with folks who are researching adult fish stocks in the Gulf of Maine. They were very interested in our larval data (especially herring data) and how it relates to the recent crashes in herring populations/quotas for Maine's lobstermen. We are hoping to collaborate with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute this summer to look at the connections between what we see in the larval data and what their researchers are seeing in the adult populations both nearshore and offshore.


We saw amazing underwater photography from the Gulf of Maine by Keith Ellenbogen.

It was great to see Wells Reserve data used for the Coastal Squeeze Index (PDF). The research is online at Research Gate (PDF).

Some take-home messages from day 4 were:


At week's end, the stalwart dozens who remained heard both admonitions and expressions of hope. Session conveners from earlier in the week summarized the findings of their groups:

  • On sea level rise: Despite all we know, we are building way too close to the shore. Those most affected often have the least ability to adapt.
  • On ocean acidification: We must reduce atmospheric carbon, extend laboratory knowledge into the environment, and prepare to adapt at a personal level.
  • On water temperature: We know what's coming (ocean heat waves), but our management policies are insufficiently nimble and we are unprepared for species loss.

The youth panel found inspiration through the conference, but did not see solely through rose-colored glasses. They praised the "breaking down of silos" that was part of the GoM2050 philosophy while noting the absence of some key voices during the week. They cautioned against glossing over differences while encouraging people to relearn how to talk to one another without presuppositions. Some spoke as nascent scientists who grew up in fishing communities, and how they hope to be honest brokers in contentious debates. As a whole, they are looking toward a 2050 where in the Gulf of Maine region human needs are in harmony with nature.

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