UMaine researchers, visiting scientists and students, marine patrol agents and business incubator clients are among the many who use the research vessels and waterfront facilities at UMaine’s Darling Marine Center in Walpole. (University of Maine Darling Marine Center photo)
University of Maine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy and U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Dana Gartzke recently visited Walpole, Maine, for a tour of the Darling Marine Center (DMC), a waterfront infrastructure improvement project that began earlier this year.
The tour, led by DMC Director Heather Leslie and DMC Laboratory Manager Timothy Miller, supplied an overview of the project, which will upgrade the center's flowing seawater system, renovate its oldest seawater laboratory and replace its 50-year-old main pier.
The improvements are funded by an award from the U.S. Economic Development Administration with matching funds from UMaine and state marine bond funds.
The construction will be substantially complete by Jan. 1, 2021, with only a few docks left to be built, according to the DMC.
Prock Marine and The Penobscot Company, both Rockport, Maine-based companies, have the primary contracts for the project. Together, the two firms have tapped local electricians and other tradespeople to execute the complex project, which requires installing a flowing seawater system — which acts as the circulatory system of the marine laboratory. This system can sustain thousands or millions of marine organisms, depending on the experiments that DMC scientists and their partners are conducting.
"Amid all the challenges people are facing right now, we're grateful for the support of the state and federal government to undertake this project," said Ferrini-Mundy. "These improvements will enable the Darling Marine Center and University of Maine more broadly to better serve the people of Maine."
DMC researchers are helping the state's marine fisheries and aquaculture sectors adapt, diversify, and grow in response to changing environmental conditions. Scientists and students based at the DMC conduct applied research and work collaboratively with marine industry professionals to develop new value-added marine products and bring them to commercial scale.
DMC researchers and industry partners also provide on-the-job training and experience to university students, the next generation of marine science professionals.
When completed, the upgraded infrastructure will benefit faculty, students and the center's partners: fishermen, aquaculture entrepreneurs, marine industry professionals and community members through collaborative research, workforce development and business incubation programs.
"Maine's fisheries and aquaculture industries depend on healthy coastal and oceans," said Leslie. "Understanding these connections between people and oceans, and how they are changing is central to our work at the DMC. We thank the U.S. Economic Development Administration and all those who are supporting this important project."