I want to make science accessible to the public, but to do that, I need your help to stock the marine science lab!
In short, we want a marine ecology laboratory that supports A) citizen science, B) hands-on learning, and C) outreach, including tours, of the Gulf of Maine.
The Gulf of Maine is an invaluable resource for Mainers, whether directly or indirectly. Many rely on the Gulf's aquaculture and commercial fishing industry. Still more visit Maine's historical lighthouses, forts, public parks, sandy beaches, and unique rocky shorelines.
There are a ton of questions begging to be answered about the Gulf of Maine. Why don't we give the community access to the knowledge, space, and equipment needed to conduct ecological research?
For more detailed information, keep reading!
The MECMSC campaign is the heart of the operation that is doing good. The description of the campaign will be answered in the form of an FAQ (frequently asked questions), because these are all questions important to understanding the overall goal of the MECMSC and why funding is essential.
What is the Incubator?
The MECMSC incubator laboratory has enough room to support 8 researchers at a time, and that's assuming everyone is there at the same time! We look to provide a laboratory space that is stocked with all the equipment and materials needed to appropriately foster science learning through conducting ecological research in the Gulf of Maine. We will be offering rentable laboratory space for independent researchers (currently, individuals do not have an option like this!) in addition to education services.
DIYBio (Do-It-Yourself Biology) and community laboratory space is a recent innovation, with only a few labs around the nation. We want to join in on the fun and offer independent researchers in Maine to have that opportunity as well! This will essentially be a "DIY Ecology" lab with a special interest in incubating scientists.
Ecology is fun. Ecology gets you out into the field where all the cool stuff happens. Ecology lets you look not only at individual organisms, but also entire communities and how all of the organisms interact! Ecology is a good way to get people interested in science. It's also the perfect field to conduct research without spending much money. Ecology is also extremely important to the southern Maine community, who work and play in/around the Gulf of Maine. The Gulf is home to salmon aquaculture, commercial fisheries, and tidal power operations, all heavily grounded in ecology! As such, the community already has a personal relationship to the Gulf, so let's take that one step further!
And, most importantly, ecology is a field where the equipment is relatively inexpensive compared to equipment used in other scientific fields. With the right equipment, individuals can conduct credible research, as long as they are also aware of the proper research techniques.
Doing a plankton tow during winter in the Gulf of Maine
What will the incubator lab support?
The incubator lab will support a variety of activities including, but not limited to, ecological research (both field and laboratory), science education (importance of ecological research, research methods, experimental design, basic bio-statistics), science and creativity (scientific illustration workshops for children and their families), and field trips involving both field collections and basic laboratory analysis (species identification, etc.).
What's the point of all this?
Life, physical, and social sciences estimated employment is 1,340 out of 178,140 persons employed in Cumberland County (4,380/581,110 statewide Maine), a whopping 0.75% of Portland’s workforce. Additionally, these numbers are significantly lower than all but one other occupational groups in Cumberland County (Maine.gov CWRI). This number is highly discouraging, as science should be more highly represented if Maine wants to promote working in Maine to the younger demographic with science degrees. Administrative, sales, and food preparation occupations are simply not enough to reign in that younger demographic that Portland, and Maine as a whole, needs to become technologically competitive with surrounding states. Additionally, only 41% of Maine high school juniors are proficient in science, indicating a need for experiential learning.
The overall goal of the supported activities is three-fold: 1) to get people excited about science by actually experiencing the research process!!! 2) to engage and develop the community's critical thinking skills, and 3) to increase the community's personal relationship with their environment so that they are more invested in its protection and conservation.
Funds will primarily be used for stocking the laboratory with basic equipment.
While the list is fairly long, the items that are highest on the list and will be purchased first include:
-dissecting microscopes and light sources
-microscopy tools such as forceps and pipettes
-glassware and dish pans
-calipers (for measuring small things)
-Ethanol (for specimen preservation)
-tanks for specimen holding and conducting controlled experiments
-plankton tow net(s)
-buckets and bags
-bubblers, air stones, and tubing
-projector (for giving presentations to classes before interactive component)
The Tipping Point
The amount required to reach the tipping point will let us purchase a few of the most basic equipment listed above - just enough to where the lab can start providing classes and workshops. For example, we would be capable of bringing in live specimens (using buckets, bags, glassware, and perhaps a plankton tow if showing plankton) and letting students record measurements (calipers) and take turns looking through the microscope (glassware, microscope(s), light source(s), and microscopy tools). If able to purchase a digital microscope and projector, images from the microscope could be projected to the class.
The Ultimate Goal
A happy ecology lab is one that is full of equipment and researchers have pretty much everything needed (there's always exceptions!) to conduct research. Reaching the ultimate goal would give us the opportunity to have the lab ready and raring to go for eager learners and scientists to do all sorts of things!! Reaching the ultimate goal will allow us to purchase tanks and all the accessories required to conduct controlled laboratory experiments and to keep specimens for a longer period of time (if needed). It would let us buy portable microscopes that can be taken out into the field so photos can be taken of specimens that can't be collected. Another addition that can be made upon reaching the ultimate goal is to purchase license(s) of statistical software that can be used for data analysis. It might even be possible to go one step further and open up a classroom office in an area with higher foot traffic, which would bring in more people and get word out faster about our goals!
For those of you who donate $25, you'll receive this gift card!