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Darling Marine Center director travels to share ocean science developments

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WALPOLE The new director of the University of Maine Darling Marine Center in Walpole will log considerable miles on land and sea Sept. 21-23 to discuss ocean science and ocean stewardship.

Sept. 21, Heather Leslie will talk about opportunities and challenges for engaged research on the Maine coast during a Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions seminar at 3 p.m. in 107 Norman Smith Hall at the University of Maine.

The next day, the international leader in marine conservation science will board Nova Star in Portland for a two-day, 424-mile voyage across the Gulf of Maine trip to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia and back. Leslie will share her expertise with passengers as part of the Nova Star's ECO (Everyone Cares about the Ocean) Program.

'I've really enjoyed my first six weeks as director of the Darling Center,' Leslie says. 'We have so many exciting marine research and education projects underway at the Darling Center, and as I learn more about them and about the interests of our neighbors in the community, in industry and the broader region, I can see many possibilities for leveraging this important work to benefit the people of Maine.'

Leslie is the second of 12 speakers in this fall's Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions series in Orono. Her Sept. 21 talk is titled 'Got fish? Reflections on scientists' roles in sustaining small-scale marine fisheries.'

When it comes to sustaining fisheries, how knowledge is generated and shared can be as important as what is known, she says. Leslie, who joined the DMC in August, will discuss understanding drivers of ecological and social processes in marine systems and how to effectively connect science to marine policy and management.

'I grew up on the Gulf of Maine and saw my town's waterfront change as the waters offshore changed. This early experience on the coast really shaped the international research that I'll talk about next week,' she says.

'As vital as it is to understand ecosystem dynamics, in order to come up with creative solutions to the challenges we face, we also need equally good information on the people who are part of these dynamic systems. We also need thoughtful ways of building this knowledge base, in collaboration with the people who know these places best.'

Sept. 23, Leslie will be the featured presenter for Nova Star's ECO Program, which has included presentations on fishing, shipping, wind turbines and recreation. Discussions also are part of the program, as are observations of weather, currents, whales, dolphins, sea turtles, seabirds and fish.

The goal of the new ECO Program is to encourage more people to become passionate in their enjoyment, understanding and protection of the ocean and its good long-term health, says Thomas Robben, a researcher who helped organized the ECO Program.

'Heather was perfect to partner with the ECO Program because of her views and work on the coupling of the natural marine-atmospheric system with the human socioeconomic system,' he says. 'She understands how crucial healthy marine systems are to enable and benefit our human system, for us, for our grandchildren and beyond.'

Leslie says she's looking forward to sharing new developments in ocean science and stewardship with Nova Star guests, then getting back to work on the Midcoast and the center.

'As someone who was trained as a rocky shore ecologist, I don't often have an opportunity to spend time offshore in 'blue water,' as our UMaine oceanographers call it,' says Leslie. 'I have a lot to learn still, and many opportunities to pursue.'

There will continue to be opportunities for Maine residents to meet Darling Center students and scientists, she says. To learn about upcoming events, visit dmc.umaine.edu, follow the Darling Marine Center on Facebook or call (207) 563-3146.

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