Hood College to Lead Lobster Research in Maine with NSF Grant

FREDERICK, Maryland—Hood College is the lead on an $860,000 multi-institutional collaboration with the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, the University of New England, and the Maine Department of Marine Resources, funded by the National Science Foundation.

Eric Annis, Ph.D., associate professor of biology at Hood and lead scientist on the project, will take two undergraduate summer interns to study lobsters in the Gulf of Maine in each year of the project. Hood will receive $290,000 to support this project, covering instrumentation for measuring the oxygen consumption by individual lobster larvae and temperature control for seawater tanks that will enhance their ability to conduct research related to climate change.

Lobsters start their life as larvae that are drifting in the water and then they settle on the ocean floor to grow into adults. Where lobster larvae settle and how many survive is determined in part by the temperature of the water. Water that is too cold or too hot can reduce survival or drive them away. Researchers don’t know much about the temperature range that the larvae can tolerate. The research conducted by Annis and company will help define the thermal range and will link temperature sensitivity to where the larvae settle. The success of the larvae determines the number of harvestable adult lobsters, and this research will improve the understanding of how climate change will impact this economically and ecologically important species.

“This lobster fishery is one of the most valuable in North America with an estimated value that typically exceeds $500 million per year,” said Annis. “Due to their large size and abundance in the Gulf of Maine, lobsters also play an important role in food web of the ecosystem.”

This NSF grant is a direct result of the research Annis completed in spring 2019 through a grant from the Maine Department of Marine Resources, which laid the groundwork for this new study. Annis developed the NSF grant proposal for the new research with support from a Hood College Board of Associates’ McCardell Professional Development Grant in 2019.

“I’m really excited about this project because we have a talented group of researchers from two undergraduate colleges, a leading marine research institution and a state agency collaborating to answer fundamental questions about how lobster larvae will respond to climate change,” said Annis. “This collaborative atmosphere, coupled with exciting travel and hands-on research, will generate truly transformative experiences for our students. This will provide fantastic opportunities to engage our undergraduate students in high-caliber scientific research in coastal Maine.”

Hood College is an independent, liberal arts college, offering more than 25 bachelor’s degrees, four pre-professional programs, 19 master’s degrees programs, two doctorates and 10 post-baccalaureate certificates. Located in historic Frederick, near Washington, D.C., Baltimore and the I-270 technology corridor, Hood gives students access to countless internships and research opportunities.

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