2008 Annual Report
Gulf of Maine Research Institute

Spotlight on Education

Science Content

Part of our LabVenture! program’s power lies in engaging children with timely and locally-relevant scientific issues. When we launched the program in 2006, we asked students to solve a science mystery centered on Atlantic herring (the X-Fish). In 2009, we shifted the focus of their investigations to lobster ecology and economics. We now have an incredible opportunity to update and deepen the LabVenture! experience to bring students face-to-face with cutting edge research undertaken though a National Science Foundation funded collaborative among researchers at GMRI, Bowdoin, University of Maine, and University of Southern Maine. This research explores linkages among the region’s key fisheries —herring, lobster, and cod — as well as human induced pressures such as fishing and climate change.

Our education staff is designing a hands-on learning experience that will enable students to understand how people have become part of the Gulf of Maine ecosystem in the last century. They will take on the perspective of several different kinds of scientists as they practice the methods that these scientists use to understand our complex system in its current state.

Students will observe differences in how lobsters look for food and safe places to hide in the presence or absence of predators such as cod, and explore how these behaviors may have changed over time as fishing pressures decreased cod populations in the Gulf of Maine. Research suggests that lobstering itself may be one of the main reasons there are so many more lobsters today than in the past! Students will have a chance to investigate how the herring bait that lobstermen put into their traps has become an important food source for lobsters and draw conclusions about whether we are actually farming lobsters. Students will also take a virtual fishing trip to explore how regulations and market forces affect cod in the Gulf of Maine. Finally, they will explore how weather and warming waters may impact the tiny plankton that make up the base of our food web, as well as the survival and distribution of cod and lobster larvae.

As students progress through their research, they will draw connections among the fisheries and human activities and collect evidence to support their claims.

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