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Photo of Michael ChambersMeet the Scientist:
Michael Chambers

Open Ocean Aquaculture project, University of New Hampshire

I am the project manager for the University of New Hampshire's Open Ocean Aquaculture project. My colleagues and I develop technology to support an environmentally friendly and economically viable offshore aquaculture industry for the Northeast.

There are times, I admit, when I miss my old job in Hawaii. Particularly on a winter morning, when the waves are high, the air is bitter, and the cod are hungry. There's little that compares though to the natural laboratory that is the Gulf of Maine. Some of the most extreme oceanic conditions to be found anywhere in the world occur here. If your goal is to create biological, engineering, and environmental technologies that can be widely applied, then this is the ideal setting to troubleshoot your ideas.

I joined the UNH team in May of 2000, after 10 years of offshore aquaculture experience in the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific. In the Gulf, I helped to raise red drum and Florida pompano in submersible cage systems based on abandoned oil platforms. From there, I became a manager for the first commercial scale, offshore cage culture project in Hawaii. The project was notable for identifying permit criteria, environmental monitoring protocol, and submerged technical innovations for the stimulation of cage culture.

All of this comes together for my work raising finfish and shellfish offshore in submerged cages in the Gulf of Maine. I supervise the project's operations crew, coordinate its various research components, and at the same time, pursue a doctorate in zoology. It's a "job description" that requires me to put on a survival suit for a deep-sea dive one day and attend a conference with international colleagues the next.

It's exciting to be part of a project has come so far in such a short time. We harvested the first Atlantic halibut to be cultured in deep water last year, and commercial fishermen are now using the techniques we pioneered for open ocean mussel culture. This year we look forward to harvesting cod and haddock.

I attribute these milestones to the cooperative professionalism of the Open Ocean Aquaculture project team and our partners. Every week, engineers, marine biologists, research technicians, and educators sit down to work through the challenges of raising fish and shellfish in cages off shore, 50 feet under the surface. This interdisciplinary team has designed and installed a cage mooring grid that can withstand all the weather the North Atlantic can serve up; developed an automated feeding system to make care of the fish easier and more efficient, and created a remote monitoring system through which we can receive data about the fish and their environmental impact back in our labs at UNH.

The world is more than 70 percent water, and I believe it makes sense to explore aquaculture as a way to help satisfy the protein requirements of a growing population. At the same time, it is critical for the process to ecologically sustainable, compatible with current ocean use, and economically viable. Our goal is to work with our colleagues, local and international, to make it happen.

My educational background:

  • Bachelors of Science in aquatic biology, University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point (1985)
  • Masters of Science in Mariculture, Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi (1995)
  • Master Captains License (100 gross tons)
  • Pursuing a Ph.D. in Zoology, University of New Hampshire.

Learn more about the work being done by Michael Chambers and his colleagues at ooa.unh.edu

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National Science Foundation Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Maine Forest Products Council Irving Woodlands, LLC Desiree Carlson, M.D. More Connected. More Maine.

Major funding is provided by the National Science Foundation.
Additional funding is provided by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Maine Forest Products Council, Irving Woodlands LLC., Desiree Carlson, M.D., and gifts to More Connected. More Maine, The Campaign for Maine Public Broadcasting Network's Programming.

A list of other funders includes:
The Davis Family Foundation, Margaret E. Burnham Charitable Trust, and Lincoln Ladd.

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