UMaine Lab solving environmental problems

Published: Aug. 29, 2022 at 10:53 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 29, 2022 at 10:56 PM EDT
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ORONO, Maine (WABI) - The University of Maine’s Cooperative Extension Diagnostic and Research Laboratory serves as a central hub for environmental research on a number of Pine Tree State issues.

We stopped by for Governor Mills’ tour of the facility, and found out more about their mission.

A lot has changed in the four years since the UMaine Diagnostic and Research Laboratory opened, but the mission to explore remains the same.

After securing state funding for the lab, Governor Mills got a hands-on look.

“This is an example of some world class research and world class education going on right here in Orono, Maine,” Mills said. “This is all very current research and current data on current issues.”

The facility features extensive aquaculture resources, a necropsy room and plant pathology center, but it was the tick research lab - complete with jarred samples of massive winter ticks - that left a lasting impression.

“We’re right on the cutting-edge of research management strategies and also looking at the different types of diseases, and new diseases coming online, like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in Connecticut,” laboratory director Jim Dill said.

The projects studied at the lab will help answer environmental questions such as diseases brought on by tick bites and the future of the lobster population, among the changing coastal climate.

“One of my favorite projects is actually with W.L. Gore, Gore Tex, where we’re looking at a pest of Atlantic salmon,” Aquaculture Research Institute director Debbie Bouchard said. “From that petri dish scale, we’re now doing a full-blown marine site study.”

It all adds up to a tremendous learning opportunity.

“During the course of the year, we have about 20 students working here at different times. It’s a great opportunity for them to learn lab skills and the like,” Dill said.

It’s a great resource for all the people of the state of Maine, not just the students and the faculty, but the people who can use the results that are achieved in this lab,” Mills said.