Two local students were chosen to participate in the Keller BLOOM program for microflora and fauna at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences.
The students, Brooke Carleton-Wagstaff from Wiscasset Middle High School and Theo Seidel from Lincoln Academy, spent a week at the East Boothbay campus from May 22-27, learning about ocean science research. The students, all juniors, worked side-by-side with Bigelow Laboratory scientists, went on a research cruise, conducted experiments, and learned how to analyze results as part of the 27th annual Keller BLOOM (Bigelow Laboratory Orders Of Magnitude) Program.
The five-day summer workshop provided students with a hands-on experience to learn about the biological, chemical, and geological characteristics of the local marine environment and get an idea of what a career as a scientist might be like. Bigelow Laboratory researchers Drs. Nicole Poulton and David Fields led the program. The students applied for the program and 16 were selected from across all the counties in Maine.
All costs for participation are covered by private donations to the Keller BLOOM Program, named in honor of the late Maureen Keller, a Bigelow Laboratory scientist, to make it open and accessible to all.
Carleton-Wagstaff said she has been interested in marine biology all her life, but that the Bigelow experience opened her eyes to organisms beyond marine mammals, an early attraction. “I was able to see that phyto- and zooplankton, which you can’t even see when you look at the sea, are the most important things in the ocean,” she said. “They are the basis for the whole ecosystem.” Carleton-Wagstaff plans to major in marine biology, and is currently looking at the program at Maine Maritime Academy.
Seidel said that the project they worked on involved identifying the number of zoo- and phytoplankton and bacteria and viruses in coastal areas, versus deeper water. He was working on the bacteria and viruses project, he said, and overall, both teams found that the number of organisms were greater closer to the coast. “That is probably because of runoff from the soil and from wastewater treatment,” he said. “We found a greater number closer to the Sheepscot River than further out to sea.”
He said that phytoplankton do best in shallower water, closer to the shore. “They are photosynthesizing organisms, and do better where there is more light,” he said. Light can penetrate shallower water more easily than deeper water.
Seidel had been considering engineering as a career, but now he is thinking seriously about marine biology. “I was offered a job for the summer, doing computer work at the Lab,” he said. “Mostly I’ll be coding, helping scientists with their computers, and importing data into spreadsheets, that kind of thing.”
Seidel encouraged young people to apply for next year’s program. “It’s not crazy competitive, and it’s definitely worth it,” he said.