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One of the most dominant and aggressive non-native species in the Gulf of Maine is Didemnum vexillum. This organism, a colonial tunicate or "sea squirt", grows on the seafloor and other hard structures like docks and piers, spreading and growing on top of other animals. Concerned about potential impacts to the ecology of cobble and pebble bottom habitats (and the commercial fisheries they support) a multi-state team of researchers plan to evaluate the role of Didemnum as an “ecological engineer,” and explore options for management and control of this invasive species.
MIT researchers will design and test optical sensors adapted for use on the autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), Odyssey IV. UMaine researchers led by Emmanuel Boss will photograph bottom habitat and retrieve grab samples. Robert Whitlach and his students at UConn will help with image processing and data analysis, and MIT Sea Grant will provide outreach services.
Divers at the UMaine School of Marine Sciences Darling Marine Center collected data on the reflectance of Didemnum, which UMaine researcher Emmanuel Boss used to develop a preliminary algorithm to detect Didemnum presence from optical measurements, which MIT's AUV is testing.
See the project description at the UMaine In-situ Sound & Color Lab.
Regional project funded by Northeast Sea Grant Consortium
Total [Maine] Sea Grant funds: $25,000 to Emmanuel Boss, UMaine