Author Peter Logan ’75: “John James Audubon in Maine”

Peter B. Logan, Bowdoin Class of 1975 and author of the new biography, Audubon: America’s Greatest Naturalist and His Voyage of Discovery to Labrador, discusses John James Audubon’s connections to Maine, his correspondence with early Bowdoin professor Parker Cleaveland, and how Bowdoin ultimately came to hold one of the remarkable double-elephant editions of the Birds of America.

Presented by the Bowdoin College Library.

John Hagan: “From Soft-Shell Clams to Soft-Shell Crabs: Two Practical Solutions for Adapting to a Warming Gulf of Maine”

Bowdoin College hosted two speakers this week who are exploring ways that Mainers — particularly those who earn their livelihoods from the sea — might respond to a warming ocean and changing marine ecosystem.

The Gulf of Maine is heating up faster than 99 percent of the world’s oceans, and scientists foresee a time when historically lucrative fisheries—like lobstering and clamming—are gone, replaced with fish species unfamiliar to us here.

On Tuesday evening, field ecologist John Hagan spoke about his project to develop soft-shell clam farming in Maine. He was joined by Jonathan Taggart of Georgetown, Maine, who described his efforts to turn the invasive and problematic green crab into a sought-after food. (Originally invited speaker Marissa McMahan was not able to attend the event.)

Hagan, who also lives in Georgetown, stressed that in this time of climate uncertainty, he is focused on finding realistic solutions to changing conditions. “A lot of times you’ll hear talks about climate change and warming, and that is all big-picture stuff,” he said. “Sometimes you just want something practical to think about and to get your hands around. And clam farming is pretty practical.”

Hagan is the president of Manomet, a Plymouth, Mass.-based organization working to make the world more sustainable through the application of science. For the past three years, he has been collaborating with locals in Maine’s midcoast area to figure out whether wild clam harvesters could transition into clam farmers in a world altered by climate change.

Soft-shell clam flats are being decimated by a growing population of green crabs, an invasive species that likes warm water and is spreading throughout the world. The crabs wreak havoc on important eelgrass habitats, as well as eat mussels, scallops, and soft-shell clams. Clamming is Maine’s second most seafood industry, after lobster.

Starting in 2014, Hagan began working with Chris Warner, a clam harvester in Georgetown, Maine, to launch what he says is the first commercially viable clam farm in Maine. First, they seeded beds in three coves off of Georgetown, Brunswick, and Chebeague Island with thousands of baby clams. He and Warner secured nets around their seedlings to ward off the voracious green crabs. Then they waited. Clams require at least two years to grow to the legal size of two inches.

Hagan says that three seasons later, two of the three test farms have been successful, in that they successfully fended off green crabs and produced a decent number of clams. He added, however, that he has not yet come up with a way to protect clams from another predator, the milky ribbon worm, which is a growing problem in some coastal communities.

If you can’t beat em, eat em?

Jonathan Taggart, an art conservator from Georgetown, then described his attempts to develop Maine’s green crabs into a marketable product. They’re a bit too small to tempt many diners. After traveling to Venice, Italy, for his conservatorship work, he returned home inspired by the traditional and “vibrant green crab fishery” he had seen in the watery city.

Tutored by a Venetian crab fisherman, Taggart learned the painstaking art of identifying when a young green crab is ready to molt, which is the only time the little crustacean can be enjoyably eaten. The signs are very subtle—small changes in coloration at the edge of its shell plates. “It’s helpful to have really strong reading glasses,” Taggert joked.

If Maine fishermen can learn the trick of identifying when crabs are several days from molting, they can sell them as a specialty food. Not only can crabs be cooked in the traditional Italian style— floured and fried—they also make good stock. “Green crab stock is loaded with glutamic acid and aspartic acid, which are two of the main umami chemicals,” Taggart said, referring to the taste that gives some food a certain savory satisfactoriness. “Anything you put green crab stock in is going to be more delicious because of those two ingredients.”

In addition, Taggart said Maine’s green crabs could be shipped down south where she-crab soup, which requires crab roe, is popular. But harvesters are no longer allowed to collect the main ingredient—Atlantic blue crab roe. “We can harvest the roe from our gals [up here] and help them have their she-crab soup again,” he said.

The green crab market, he concluded, is there, “ready to go. We just have to produce a product.”

The possibility of a future of clam farms and green crab soups have buoyed Hagan’s optimism. “We’re hopeful,” he said. “I hope we’ve given you some sense that we’re all going to survive climate change by eating soft-shell clams and green crabs.”

But he acknowledged that climate change will still create massive problems, along with a few business opportunities. “We still need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” he warned.

Gregg Mitman: “Forgotten Paths of Empire”

Join Gregg Mitman as he follows Richard Pearson Strong’s 1926 journey of an eight-member scientific team on a four-month long biological and medical survey of the interior region of Liberia, an expedition that was thoroughly entangled in the material relationships —transportation infrastructure, labor regimes, and commodity production—being erected by the Firestone Plantations Company in Liberia to secure a viable rubber supply for the United States. While Firestone’s continued presence in that country is one lasting legacy of the expedition, so too is the motion picture record the expedition left behind.

This talk follows the forgotten paths of empire that led to widespread economic, environmental, and cultural change in the West African republic. In doing so, Mitman highlights the circulation of knowledge, commodities, and microbes that brought ecological and evolutionary understandings of disease into being. He also suggests how we might take the imperial debris of a scientific expedition produced in the service of capital and make something new of its ruins.

Mitman is Vilas Research and William Coleman Professor of History of Science, Medical History, and Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He is an award-winning author, filmmaker, and teacher, whose interests span the history of science, medicine, and the environment in the United States and the world, and reflect a commitment to environmental and social justice. He is the founding director of the Nelson Institute€’s Center for Culture, History and Environment, and is also past president of the American Society for Environmental History.

Sponsored by the Alfred E. Golz Memorial Lecture.

Michael Rozyne ’78: “Sustainable Food – Healthy, Green, Fair, Affordable: Can We Have It All and Scale It Up?”

Michael Rozyne, Bowdoin class of 1978, visited campus recently to share his story and experience growing two social venture food businesses — Equal Exchange and Red Tomato.

Rozyne spoke about the current local and sustainable food movement in the U.S., and the issues, challenges and obstacles that must be overcome to scale up this movement. He also touched on how innovation, technology, and collaboration might come into play.

Rozyne is executive director of Red Tomato, a nonprofit that connects farmers to consumers, relying on wholesale distribution to deliver farm products to local grocery stores. Previously, Rozyne co-founded Equal Exchange, a cooperative business that trades food in a way that he says empowers both farmers and consumers.

Janisse Ray: The Seed Underground: A Growing Revolution to Save Food

Janisse Ray is writer, naturalist and activist, and the author of four books of literary nonfiction and a collection of nature poetry. She is on the faculty of Chatham University’s low-residency MFA program and is a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow. She holds an MFA from the University of Montana.

In her most recent book The Seed Underground: A Growing Revolution to Save Food, Ray writes about the renaissance of local food, farming, and place-based culinary traditions taking hold across the country and of something small, critically important, and profoundly at risk that is being overlooked in this local food resurgence: seeds. We are losing our seeds. Of the thousands of seed varieties available at the turn of the 20th century, 94 percent have been lost-forever.

A Scientist Looks at the Ocean: Collin Roesler

Collin Roesler joined Bowdoin College in 2009, teaching oceanography in the Department of Earth and Oceanographic Science. She adheres to the earth system science approach tapping into her degrees in geological, physical, and biological oceanography. Her current research focuses on understanding ocean ecosystem responses to changing climate. She was one of the principle scientists responsible for developing the Gulf of Maine Integrated Coastal Ocean Observing System, which allows scientists, students, and the public to access oceanographic data in real time. She is passionate about teaching and bringing authentic research experiences into the classroom.

Roesler’s talk, “A Scientist Looks at the Ocean: Thoughts on Developing Students’ Scientific Identity,” is presented as part of Bowdoin’s Common Hour, a series created as an occasion for students, faculty and staff to gather, at at time absent of classes or committee meetings, to engage in the ideas and presentations of the speakers.