Photo by Chris Bartlett.

On Oct. 8 at 7 p.m., the University of Maine Lobster Institute hosted its first of a series of webinars titled “Collaborative Chats: Successful Research Partnerships in the Lobster Industry.” The event was hosted virtually over Zoom and included an hour long slideshow presentation and a Q&A after. The webinar was focused on discussing collaborative research efforts in the lobster industry, and brainstorming ways to strategize how collaborative research can be made a priority.

The Lobster Institute developed the series to help inspire new research partnerships across the state by connecting and hearing from both old and new participants in related research. Amalia Harrington from Maine Sea Grant co-hosted the event with Jessica Waller from the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR), and both also served as moderators for the discussion. The talk was sponsored by Maine Sea Grant, Maine Department of Marine Resources and The Lobster Institute.

Carl Wilson, director of the bureau of marine science, and a member of Maine DMR began the webinar with his presentation titled, “Lessons from a Collaborative Trapping Experiment in Tenants Harbor.” Wilson discussed how he got involved with the project, and his previous experience working on a science experiment in Monhegan, Maine. Wilson was collaborating on a controlled experiment in an un-fished area and worked with fishermen to collect data. He later worked in Tenants Harbor, where he had the opportunity to test impacts for trap density on catch in a heavily-fished area. 

The Lobster Research Collaborative started in 2018, created by the Maine DMR in order to help encourage project collaboration in the lobster industry. The program helps to fund different experiments and collaborative projects relevant to the field, while also keeping people informed and updated on current findings and research opportunities. The collaborative meets quarterly and shares research and finding updates, suggestions, support and news for collaboration moving forward.

Wilson included a slideshow presentation during his discussion that showcased his time working in collaborative experiments in connection to the DMR. Tenants Harbor and Monhegan were two of his completed research collaborations, and Wilson shared stories of his success, failures and findings while doing this research. His presentation was followed by a short discussion with Josh Miller, a lobsterman on the fishing vessel Dorcas Anne in Tenants Harbor who worked with Wilson during the collaboration.

“The experience with the collaboration was definitely long lasting for me. Tenants Harbor is a pretty friendly collaborative research harbor,” Miller said. “For myself, that was the beginning of collaborative research for me, and I have done a lot since then. I love it, and it’s a great way to scratch the science itch. It was a great experience overall, and we learned a lot from it.”

Members of the audience were encouraged to ask questions, provide feedback and offer their own stories from personal experience working in collaborative environments. One participant, Richard Wahle, a research professor at the school for marine sciences and director of the Lobster Institute, offered further insight into the work that Wilson was doing and on the lobster industry.

The Lobster Institute is hosting three remaining webinars as a part of this series, all ranging in topic and featuring different professors and researchers in the industry. The first will be on Wednesday, Oct. 28 at 6:30 p.m., where Dr. Bob Steneck, a professor in the school of marine sciences at UMaine, and Dave Cousens, a lobsterman from South Thomaston, Maine, will be co-hosting their presentation, “A Retrospective Look at Collaborative Research in Maine.” 

The next webinar following will take place on Thursday, Nov. 17, at 7 p.m. and will feature marine science graduate student Cassy Leeman, Ready Seafood employee Curt Brown and Eric Payne from Inland Seafood. The last webinar of the semester will take place on Dec. 2 and discuss the relationship between scientists and lobstermen. All webinars will be recorded and shared online following each event. 

To see a list of upcoming webinars, learn about Maine Sea Grant, or to find out more information on any of the projects, please visit seagrant.umaine.edu/extension/american-lobster-initiative/. To get in contact with the Lobster Institute or find out about upcoming research opportunities, please email lobsterinstitute@maine.edu.