Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries welcomed two additional interns to the team this summer. Ellie Oldach, a graduate student at UC Davis, is working side-by-side with MCCF’s cooperating scientist, Dr. Josh Stoll to better understand how the lobster industry is adapting to herring quota cuts. Also, high school student, Phoebe Weil, spent the last month assisting MCCF staff on a smattering of projects: examining the Endangered Species and Marine Mammal Protection Acts, baiting Sentinel Survey hooks, and sampling within the Bagaduce Watershed. Both Phoebe and Ellie also engaged visitors inside MCCF’s marine education center, Discovery Wharf.
Ellie can often be found traveling the state interviewing members of the lobster industry. The work is part of an ongoing research project being led by the University of Maine, Johns Hopkins, and the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, but she explains it feels a lot like what she hopes to be doing once she completes school – working closely with coastal communities to understand how they can prepare for and respond to ecological and social change.
When asked what inspired her to choose her studies, studying the human dimensions of marine fisheries, she explains, “It’s clear that ecological and social systems are changing, right now. In coming years, coastal communities may face some of the hardest challenges. But when you talk to people that live and work in coastal communities, they’ll tell you— they’ve been adapting to change for a long time. That’s really what inspires me— there are so many stories of people and communities finding ways to roll with the changes, and I think it’s crucial to learn from those stories as social-ecological systems face an uncertain future.”
Before summer comes to an end, the Maryland native looks forward to exploring Deer Isle-Stonington and neighboring islands, “There are so many gems to explore in this area— Sand Beach, the Tennis Preserve, Nervous Nellie’s, Barred Island. Last weekend, I floated down the reversing falls on the Bagaduce— I’d never been there before, and it was incredible. Plus, getting out to Isle au Haut is definitely something I hope to do.”
Ellie, who has already learned an immense amount from conversations with numerous industry members in different capacities, hopes this project will result in better understanding of resilience in the lobster industry, and information that communities can use to plan for future change – whether that’s Maine’s lobstering community, or other coastal communities facing similar challenges. Beyond that, she hopes to learn some of the ins-and-outs of maintaining a non-profit community-based research and policy organization.
In five years, Ellie will be completing graduate school and putting the finishing touches on her dissertation, where she hopes to have a thesis that has grown out of collaboration with fishermen and other marine resource users, that treats society and ecology as deeply intertwined, and that offers something useful to coastal communities facing a changing world.
Phoebe is no stranger to Stonington. She has been visiting the island for as long as she can remember, but was yearning to learn more about her home away from home. The aspiring chemical engineer assisted the MCCF team with various research projects and learned about many local marine and anadromous species. Phoebe shared that although she is a longtime visitor to the island, she wanted to learn more about the fishing industry, specifically here, in Stonington.
When asked what inspired her to pursue an interest in chemical engineering, she did not hesitate to share her love for chemistry, “My teacher made me really fall in love with chemistry. How interesting is it that microscopic things can code for everything around me? I’ve always loved the innovative side of engineering, and the two just fit together.” In the next 5 years, Phoebe hopes to attend graduate school where she can study all things plastic and find a way to contain the synthetic material.
Outside of the classroom, Phoebe enjoys rowing, making YouTube videos, and tutoring younger students. Her favorite thing about Stonington? “I have always seen Stonington as having the most beautiful views, generous people, and fun adventures on all the surrounding islands.” Her summer bucket list? Learn how to drive a motor boat.
To learn more about MCCF’s internship opportunities, visit our website at www.coastalfisheries.org/join/careers/. Internship opportunities vary every year based on the needs of the organization and available funding.