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Ram Island donated to UNE Marine Science Department

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Ram Island donated to UNE Marine Science Department

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Morgayne Nash, Editor-in-chief

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It is no question that after the closing of the Marine Animal Rehabilitation Center the UNE Marine Science Program lost its ‘wow factor’. Nancy Palermo, a Junior UNE undergraduate Medical Biology major said she enjoyed being able to visit the MARC in her time off between classes, “Losing the MARC was a huge disappointment, and was detrimental to the spirit of the Marine Science building as a whole.” With the addition of Ram Island the program may have regained some of the draw that the MARC provided for incoming students.

This morning the acquisition of Ram Island was announced through a press conference held in the University of New England Marine Science Center. A gift from the Art Girard family, Ram Island will be used for research and experimental education. “The island and its surrounding ocean have beautiful but sensitive marine ecosystems requiring the highest levels of stewardship by UNE,” said Barry Costa-Pierce, chairman of the UNE Marine Sciences Department. The research done on the island will help us better “understand the island and adjacent marine ecosystems in the era of rapid ocean climate changes.”

According to Costa-Pierce, they are “planning to set up long-term monitoring and sentinel sites to observe these marine environmental changes.” The research done on Ram Island will be a continuation of some of the current projects running in the Marine Science Department, such as the data from the buoy in Saco Bay and the weather station at the Marine Science Center.

Ram Island is located two miles off the coast of Saco. “We need a safe, student centered boat that can carry 20-25 students at a time so that classes can access the island,” said Costa-Pierce, “We hope to have this boat ready for students and classes by the Fall of 2016.”

The small house located on the island is in need repairs and a functional bathroom, according to Costa-Pierce, in order to make the island functional for student use. Along with the boat, there also needs to be a “functional safe landing spot”. Although there is “so much to be done” Costa-Pierce is hopeful for the future use of the island.

Right now the plans for the Island will be applicable to all of the majors in the Marine Science Department – Marine Biology, Oceanography, Marine Affairs, Marine Entrepreneurship, and Aquaculture and Aquarium Sciences – and many of the classes will make use of the island. According to Costa-Pierce, “in the future there might just be special classes on sustainable island studies, island climate change, etc.”

According to Costa-Pierce they are not planning on increasing the cost for the classes conducting research on the island for students. He is hopeful that the students will benefit from the “experimental opportunities” and “accelerated undergraduate research opportunities”.

“We already have a lot of research being done in the MSC,” Katie Mentzer, a Junior Undergraduate Aquaculture and Aquarium Science major said. Mentzer is concerned about how the Marine Science Department is trying to help the students who do not want to go in to research, “I think that was what MARC was, a lot of the rest of the students not in research wanted to go into rehab or vet type professions and that opportunity was taken away.”

“UNE marine sciences haven’t walked away from the great issues of marine mammals and their impacts on our changing oceans,” said Costa-Pierce, “having Ram Island now gives us an opportunity to observe them in their native habitat and find out what’s going on right here.”

According to Costa-Pierce, “Having our own island is pretty unique in university programs anywhere.” But only time will tell how the new addition of Ram Island to the UNE Marine Science Program will stand in the shadow of the MARC.

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