July 15, 2010
The 21st-Century USM: From President Selma Botman
The USM-Ocean Alliance research expedition to the Gulf of Mexico is a unique, joint effort to evaluate the impact of the unprecedented environmental disaster in the Gulf, with a focus on whales and the fish whales consume.
The Gloucester (Mass.) Times recently reported, “The University of Southern Maine is one of the nation’s leaders in marine mammal toxicology, while the Ocean Alliance has been a global leader in whale research and education for nearly four decades…”
For the next several months, researchers and students from the Wise Laboratory for Environmental and Genetic Toxicology will be aboard the Ocean Alliance’s RV Odyssey, the only sailboat in the world equipped with a state-of-the-art cell culture laboratory. USM researchers, students and Alliance staff will be collecting tissue samples from whales, and other species and analyzing them onboard. Further analysis will be done in the Wise Lab. It is the only research project designed to develop whale cell lines to research the impact of the massive spill on whales.
This research expedition makes so much sense on so many levels, aside from the visibility it is attracting and will continue to generate.
First, it applies the University of Southern Maine’s intellectual resources to a better understanding of the true, longterm impact of the worst ecolological disaster of our lifetimes.
Second, it builds upon our existing partnership with Ocean Alliance, thereby making possible the only research expedition designed to develop whale cell lines to research the impact of the massive spill on whales, the marine life on which they feed and the ecosystem that supports them. USM awarded an honorary degree in 2009 to Iain Kerr, chief executive officer of Ocean Alliance.
Finally, the expedition gives USM researchers and students — those on the boat as well as those back in our campus lab facilities — firsthand experience with this unique and historic research project.
You can find out more about the project at a public meet-and-greet to be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., this Friday, July 16, at the pier on the campus of Southern Maine Community College, South Portland. Tours of The Odyssey will be available, along with opportunities to talk with researchers, staff and students.
If it fits your schedule, I hope you can drop by and wish them well. The Odyssey is scheduled to set sail for the Gulf at 7 p.m., this Saturday.