SMCC Marine Science Drifter

SMCC Drifter 01

SMCC Professor Brian Tarbox, an associate professor of Marine Science at Southern Maine Community College (SMCC) sets a current drifter out to sea.

By Stephen T. Lyons

Dr. James Manning, a physical oceanographer with the National Marine Fisheries Service, started a program called eMOLT to team up with fishermen and academic institutions to place an array of temperature loggers and current drifters in the Gulf of Maine and Northwest Atlantic. Dr. Manning archives the data and has used it to publish several journal articles on the Western Maine Coastal Current and the Gulf Stream.
SMCC has participated in that program for over 10 years and has released 20 current drifters, some of which have left the Gulf of Maine and traveled in the Gulf Stream as far as the Grand Banks. The drifters are fitted with satellite transponders that give real-time data on their location.

SMCC hopes to work with scallop farmers in Casco Bay to gather current information when they collect their scallop seed. Up-to-date data may help them optimize the location and timing of their collectors.

Here, Professor Brian Tarbox and SMCC Marine Science student Abraham Lebel release a current drifter off the coast of Cape Elizabeth while Captain Ben Graffius looks on. Lebel is a marine science major and is currently studying the effect of nutrients on symbiotic algae in tropical jellyfish.

The Marine Science program at SMCC is a two-year program of study that leads to an Associate’s Degree in Applied Science. Graduates can either work as marine technicians or can continue their education to obtain a Bachelor’s Degree. Some SMCC graduates have later earned doctorate degrees and gone into research.

This year the drifter was transported out into Casco Bay by Captain Ben Graffius, aboard his boat the “Elizabeth-Grace” of Portland Water Harbor Tours. Captain Graffius is a Maine Maritime Academy graduate and Maine native. Graffius returned to Maine after serving in the merchant marines and military sealift command. Graffius is also part owner of Rwanda Bean Company LLC, a coffee company with two locations in Portland and South Portland.

Captain Graffius offers custom tours from June through October for upwards of 37 passengers aboard his boat the Elizabeth Grace. These tours can be tailored to your needs to include Casco Bay’s islands such as Eagle Island State Park, wildlife, lighthouses and forts. Captain Graffius can be reached at 1-207-200-8691.

Editor’s note: The Beacon staff would like to thank Stephen for submitting this article. Stephen began his college career at SMCC like many of us have, and even after graduating from Husson with a BS and then from Boston University with a MS, he hasn’t forgotten about his first college.

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