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UMaine Today Magazine

Student Focus

Saving sea urchins

Amanda Leland
Photo by John Vavrinec

PJ Dumont

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In some places along the Maine coast, the spiny marine animals known as sea urchins have disappeared. That's why for the past three years, University of Maine graduate student Amanda Leland has worked closely with the sea urchin industry to determine if the marine resource can be re-established in areas where there has been intense harvesting in the last 15 years.

Evidence suggests that urchin populations probably will not recover naturally. As a result, sea urchin harvesters, fishery managers and scientists have been exploring options to restore urchin stocks and manage the fishery. The results of Leland's marine biology research could help to determine whether replanting urchins in depleted areas is a viable management option.

In 2000, Leland received a Marine Studies Fellowship from the Maine Department of Marine Resources and The University of Maine, which created a fisheries liaison position that began her work with the sea urchin industry. As a liaison, Leland helped to bridge the gap between science, industry and policy by translating science to both harvesters and resource managers.

"The harvesters have helped me realize the socioeconomic importance of fishing in small, rural communities and the rationale behind their concerns for the future of their industry," says Leland, who did her undergraduate work at Purdue University.

This spring, Leland will be on Capitol Hill as a Dean John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellow. The competitive fellowship, offered by the National Sea Grant College Program, places graduate students from across the nation in positions with the U.S. Congress and the Executive Branch. This is the second consecutive year that a UMaine graduate student has been selected for the fellowship.

Leland says the Knauss Fellowship program will provide the experience in federal marine policy that she needs to become an effective marine conservationist.

Opting to co-op

UMaine chemical engineering junior P.J. Dumont of Holden, Maine, is between jobs. Co-op jobs.

This past summer, he gained cooperative education experience working at the International Paper mill in Bucksport, Maine. He's headed back in January for a semester-long internship.

Dumont was awarded a co-op position coordinated by The University of Maine's Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering and offered in cooperation with industrial employers.

On the job, Dumont is working as a junior chemical engineer, gaining paid professional experience. He is part of a process engineering team that monitors the quality of the papermaking process, including troubleshooting through computer data analysis.

"It's interesting to see the actual process of making paper from the size of the machines to the steps in creating it," Dumont says. "Especially after next semester, my co-op experience will help me decide my field."

While chemistry was Dumont's forte in high school, he was unclear what career path to pursue. He enrolled in UMaine's Academic and Career Exploration (ACE) program, designed to give students an opportunity to research the academic programs that match their abilities and intellectual or career interests.

For Dumont, the choices range from pulp and paper to pharmaceutical research.


UMaine Today Magazine
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