Maine is known as “Vacationland” and our coastline, mountains, and forests draw millions of tourists every summer. Mainer’s have come to dread the stream of traffic that begins to arrive in late May and departs soon after Labor Day. I’ve grown up with the same mindset dreading the endless traffic as I also try to enjoy my home state. However, this summer my perspective changed as I lived with more than 20 interns at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, many of whom do not have the joy of spending their summers in Maine. I was excited to share the beautiful state of Maine as other Bigelow interns also got to experience many Maine “firsts” of their own. I found myself many times this summer feeling like a tourist myself as I explored the coast with my peers or as I travelled to new places in Maine.
This summer I have seen many incredible sights that my state has to offer for the first time. I saw my first moose and puffin! Early morning drives up north are notorious for moose. I saw the puffins on a dive say in between fish surveys, when we were in transect from Metinic to Allen Island! Most recently, I saw my first Mola Mola (five in one day!) and swam with it too! They are the heaviest bony fish and bask in the warm surface waters in the Gulf of Maine (GoM) during the summer. I also saw my first Luna moth and first Boothbay sunrise with some interns!
I traveled farther north, east, and “up” in the state of Maine than I had ever done before. The most east being a dive site on the coast of Ram Island, off Machiasport. Shout out to the Downeast Institute for allowing Rasher Lab to stay at their dormitory while we were surveying our northern rocky reef sites. While this east in Maine, I saw and dove in my first true GoM kelp forest! I have also completed 100 dives in my drysuit since May of 2021 🙂 While I was the most north, I have been in Maine, I hiked Katahdin and therefore was also at the highest elevation in the state.
I had the opportunity to participate in Bigelow Laboratories annual summer open house! I also helped set up for the event by decorating the whiteboard as a backdrop for a photobooth during open house with other Bigelow interns. I helped some staff make paper microscopes – Foldscope’s – for another open house activity. At the event, I volunteered at the “Discovering Density” station where I demonstrated and taught visitors the public how density works when freshwater and saltwater meet.
I also had the opportunity to meet up and eat lunch with Heather Albright of AAUS and Chris Rigaud (DSO of University of Maine), sadly we did not get a picture. Additionally, a couple local interns also from Maine Maritime met up with Professor Whitney (Summer researcher at Bigelow), Aubrey Mitchell (MMA student and Bigelow Intern), and me for some ice cream in downtown Boothbay Harbor.
One of the most exciting events I attended this summer was the first Rasher Lab Olympics. Dara, Shane, and Aubrey (graduate student in the lab) put together a nine-part series of team challenges influenced by lab activities that both the lobster and eDNA lab complete daily. I was “randomly” chosen to be on Dr. Rasher’s team where he, Dara, Shane, Caroline, Riley, and I competed against the rest of the lab and ended up victorious at the last event! Luckily, my unknown secret talent of folding origami boats came in handy as Doug sailed our ship with his lung capacity to victory!
I cannot believe I have reached the end of my internship. It has been amazing to experience a summer full of research, diving, and exploring in Maine! I would like to thank AAUS and OWUSS for this incredible summer adventure as well as my host Doug Rasher and his lab (Dara, Shane, Rene, and Stuart) for their help and eagerness to teach me about Gulf of Maine kelp forests. I look forward to presenting my summer experience as the 2022 AAUS Mitchell Scientific Diving Research Intern at the 2023 annual meeting.