Last week, from October 4-6, the National Association of Marine Laboratories (NAML) held its biennial meeting at the Schiller Coastal Studies Center, drawing 33 in-person representatives and more tuning in virtually from the NAML’s 110 laboratories nationwide. The conference showcased presentations from scientists across the NAML and expositions of students’ own research. Attendees also had the opportunity to tour Schiller’s facilities.
Bowdoin Professor of Biology David Carlon has served as NAML president since 2022. The meeting took place at a Bowdoin facility for the first time in its history because it is NAML tradition for the president to host the biennial meeting at their local laboratory.
“This is the first time that I’m aware that the president of NAML has come from a small liberal arts college, and I think that’s great,” Carlon said. “There’s only a smattering of liberal arts colleges that are part of NAML because it’s more unusual [for them] to run a marine lab.… It’s good for Bowdoin, too.”
In addition to covering different ways of running a marine lab, the meeting also addressed topical issues facing marine science, ranging from research-based trends illustrating the impacts of climate change to access and inclusion in conducting research.
“Folks that come are interested in [current research] because they want to know what’s happening on the research front, and issues like climate change, overfishing and biological invasions come up repeatedly because that’s something all our labs are experiencing,” Carlon said. “We are also facing challenges with increasing our representation of students and staff in marine labs, so diversity and inclusion has come to the forefront for us.”
The meeting featured research in the Gulf of Maine and student projects, but various discussions throughout the meeting centered on science education and the logistics of running a marine lab.
“The conference is broad in the sense that people are interested in what the best practices are for operating a marine lab and what the best practices are for teaching and doing research,” Carlon said. “The meeting was exciting personally because I drove the program and [got] people to come. Quite a few people I’ve never met before came and gave great talks.”
Carlon highlighted several features of the conference, including a presentation from Leigh Peake, the chief resource officer at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland, detailing the institute’s educational programs. Another focal point was a talk by National Science Foundation Program Director Chris Atchison about how to make field research more inclusive.
Both Carlon and Director of the Schiller Coastal Studies Center Holly Parker emphasized how special it was to host the conference at Schiller.
“An event like this allows us to show off Schiller and all the new facilities, which isn’t hard. It shows itself off,” Parker said. “[Schiller] has been this hidden gem, and now it’s great to uncover it for the world and say, ‘We’re here, and we want you to partner here and bring your projects here.’”
Three Bowdoin students showcased their own projects at the conference. Nicky Yoong ’24, Everett Horch ’24 and Renske Kerkhofs ’24, who are all conducting honors projects in the biology department, presented their research on Friday.
“It was cool to talk to experienced people in the field and get feedback from some of the professors,” Kerkhofs said.
The conference also gave students a glimpse of where their careers could take them after Bowdoin.
“I looked at it as an excellent opportunity to network for graduate schools and a good opportunity to talk about research with a whole bunch of schools all around the country,” Horch said.
Carlon stressed the importance of student involvement in the NAML.
“It was very cool to see the speakers and what they’re doing and to realize that our work is helpful for the next generation,” Carlon said. “It’s about thinking about who is going to lead the next generation of NAML…. It’s a way for me to give back to the community, try to nurture the younger folks and make all that we do appealing to them.”