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News Feature

Blue Hill
Originally published in Castine Patriot, July 6, 2017 and Island Ad-Vantages, July 6, 2017 and The Weekly Packet, July 6, 2017
MERI to host open house July 12
Whales, plastics, other projects to be discussed

The Marine & Environmental Research Institute invites the public to a special open house reception and talk on Wednesday, July 12, at the Center For Environmental Studies, 55 Main Street, Blue Hill.

Founder and Director Dr. Susan Shaw will present “Whales and Seals In Warming Seas, Microplastics in Seafood, Bacteria At The Beach: Who’s At Risk?,” an overview of the research projects that the institute is engaged in right now. The talk begins at 6 p.m. with a reception at 5:30 p.m. Seating is limited.

Shaw will discuss the Institute’s new “Three Oceans” project in collaboration with scientists from Sweden, Greenland, Iceland, and the U.S. Atlantic, an ambitious investigation of ocean sustainability from life at the top. The project will overlay pollution-climate and biological data to realistically predict ocean conditions and the resilience of nine species of marine mammals—dolphins, seals, whales, porpoises—inhabiting the Baltic, Arctic and Atlantic seas as they face the converging stressors of pollution and climate change. Already, 40 percent of marine mammals are in danger of extinction—some ice-dependent species such as polar bears may disappear within the next 10 to 15 years, according to a press release. With accelerated warming in the Arctic and the Gulf of Maine, Shaw and her colleagues are developing new ways to bring science-based information to drive proactive initiatives to save the oceans while there is still time.

Marine Research Coordinator Madelyn Woods will report on the institute’s evolving research on the impacts of microplastics in our lives. In collaboration with the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Science, MERI is conducting a study to determine the ingestion rate of microplastics by mussels and oysters. The Institute was among the first to identify the problem and there is now clear evidence that fragments of plastic can be found not only in every liter of water sampled from Blue Hill Bay but also in the shellfish harvested for human consumption.

Woods will also talk about MERI’s ongoing monitoring of harmful bacteria at area beaches. In the absence of state support for local monitoring, MERI tracks Enterococcus bacteria levels at five swimming beaches in the Blue Hill area. Harmless themselves, Enterococcus bacteria indicate the presence of bacteria that can cause serious health problems for swimmers, especially children. After last year’s finding of high bacteria levels at some popular swimming spots, this will be an opportunity to answer questions about monitoring and data-reporting procedures.

For more information, visit, e-mail or call 374-2135.