2019 Plenary Speakers

Monday, July 22

Keynote Presentation


Bob Steneck, Professor of Marine Biology, Oceanography and Marine Policy in the University of Maine’s School of Marine Sciences

Humans have affected the Gulf of Maine longer than most coastal areas of North America. Their impacts are accelerating as we see the decline of groundfish (including Atlantic cod) and the rise of lobsters (now North America's most valuable marine species). How do we manage this dynamic ecosystem as changes are accelerating and the sea rapidly warms?

Bob Steneck is a marine ecologist whose laboratories include coastal zones of the North Atlantic, Alaska and coral reefs of the Caribbean and Indo-pacific oceans. He has published over 200 scientific papers on topics including coral reefs, calcareous algae, lobsters, sea urchins, fish, historical ecology, marine ecosystem dynamics, global climate change, ocean acidification and the science of managing marine resources. His scientific publications have been cited over 33,000 times. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, A Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation and was distinguished for his research by the Second International Lobster Congress.


Tuesday, July 23

Panel discussion about current issues

New England Fisheries: Learning from Yesterday, Adapting for Tomorrow

With several hundred years of fishing history, how do we face increasing challenges while maintaining a healthy and vibrant fishing community? Join our panelists to discuss:

  • Causes and consequences of changing conditions in the Gulf of Maine - Andy Pershing, Chief Scientific Officer at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute

  • Changes in the lobster industry: Growing up with a commercial fisherman as a father and a science focused teacher as a mother - Hattie Train, Marine Science Student at the University of Maine

  • Protecting marine life through research, education and inspiring action - Jen Kennedy, Executive Director of the Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation 

  • Collaboration is key: Fisheries management adaptations to rapid changes in New England - Erik Chapman, Director of New Hampshire Sea Grant (and Moderator)


Andy Pershing, Chief Scientific Officer at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute


Andy has been GMRI's Chief Scientific Officer since 2014 and runs the Ecosystem Modeling Lab. His research focuses on the causes and consequences of changing conditions in the Gulf of Maine, and he is an expert on how climate variability and climate change impact the ecosystems in the northwest Atlantic. Andy has worked primarily on zooplankton, especially rice grain-sized crustaceans called copepods, but he has also studied lobsters, herring, cod, salmon, bluefin tuna, and right whales. He is actively involved in regional efforts to understand and adapt to climate change.

Jen Kennedy, Executive Director of the Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation


Jen is co-founder of Blue Ocean Society. She has a Bachelor of Science in Natural Resources from Cornell University, and a Master of Science in Resource Administration and Management from the University of New Hampshire. Her master’s thesis involved a case study of cooperative research between fishermen and scientists. Jen has worked in an educational capacity over the last 24 years through her work aboard local whale watch boats and with Blue Ocean Society, which is a Portsmouth, NH based organization whose mission is to protect marine life in the Gulf of Maine through research, education and inspiring action.

Hattie Train, Student at the University of Maine School of Marine Science


Hattie is a Marine Science major at the University of Maine with a Marine Biology concentration and a double minor of Fisheries and Aquaculture. Raised on Long Island, Maine (a small fishing island in Casco Bay), with a commercial fisherman as a father and a science focused teacher as a mother, she has seen first-hand how important science is to the Gulf of Maine. As of late most of the projects that Hattie has worked or been involved with have been lobster focused, either biology or policy base.

Dr. Erik Chapman, Director of NH Sea Grant at the University of New Hampshire


Erik has a Masters in Wildlife Ecology and a PhD in Oceanography. Prior to his time at NH Sea Grant, he studied Adelie Penguin reproductive energetics and life history characteristics of bluefin tuna. Prior to becoming Director of NH Sea Grant, he worked extensively in an outreach and extension capacity with the NH and regional fishing industry and fisheries scientists on projects designed to support sustainable marine fisheries. These projects range in focus from marine conservation and ecology to innovative fishing technology (conservation gear) and marketing and branding of locally harvested seafood.

Ocean Literacy

Opportunities and challenges in view of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development


Francesca Santoro, Programme Specialist at the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO

Addressing ocean issues through conceptual ties to science and global societal issues have captured the concern of the international community. Moreover, an increased interest in the ocean space is observed due to the development of ocean economy, the commitments on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, the negotiation of new legal instruments, and the need of providing scientifically sound solutions to emerging threats to the ocean. In this evolving ocean landscape, strengthening scientific knowledge of the ocean and human impact on it, applying that knowledge for societal benefit, and building institutional capacities for sound management and governance are becoming increasingly relevant for the society as a whole. Ocean literacy is not only about increasing awareness on the state of the ocean, but it is about providing tools and approaches to transform ocean knowledge into actions to promote ocean sustainability. 

“A transparent and accessible ocean whereby all nations, stakeholders and citizens have access to ocean data and information, technologies and have the capacities to inform their decisions” is one of the societal outcomes of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021–2030).

Francesca Santoro is currently in charge of coordinating ocean literacy and contributing to capacity development activities. She has been working at the EuroMediterranean Centre for Climate Change and for the University Ca’ Foscari of Venice and in a number of EU funded research and cooperation projects on integrated coastal zone management and climate change adaptation. She holds a PhD in Analysis and Governance of Sustainable Development, a MSc in Integrated Coastal Zone Management, and an MSc in Environmental Sciences.

Wednesday, July 24



Dr. Larry Mayer & Graduate Students

Ocean Mapping: Exploring the Secrets of the Deep

It has often been said that we know more about the backside of the Moon then our own ocean's bottom.   In some ways the challenges are greater -- while space is transparent to the light, the ocean waters prevent the use of optical techniques for mapping beyond very shallow depths and we need to turn to sound or SONAR systems to map much of the seafloor.  Over the past 50 years - there have been remarkable advances in our ability to use sonar to map the seafloor and now the water column itself. These advances combine sophisticated sonar technology with advanced visualization tools and are provided remarkable new perspectives of the seafloor and seafloor processes. We will explore these new tools and the insights they are providing about seafloor and ocean processes, including the discovery of 10,000 foot high mountains in the Arctic, D-day wrecks, fisheries and even events like the Deepwater Horizon spill.

Larry Mayer, PhD, Professor and Director of the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping, UNH

Larry has spent over 70 months at sea, sometimes as chief or co-chief scientist as he was for two legs of the Ocean Drilling Program and eight mapping expeditions in the ice covered regions of the high Arctic. He has served on, or chaired, many international panels and committees and has the requisite large number of publications on a variety of topics in marine geology and geophysics. Larry's current research deals with sonar imaging and remote characterization of the seafloor as well as advanced applications of 3-D visualization to ocean mapping problems and applications of mapping to Law of the Sea issues, particularly in the Arctic.

Join us as current graduate students in marine science disciplines from the University of New Hampshire showcase their research in a fast-paced round of lightning talks. 

Lightning talk speakers:

  • An International Team’s Success Story on Advancing Unmanned Seafloor Mapping, by Jaya Roperez

  • Do lobsters get dinner to go? Coupling acoustic telemetry with dataloggers to better understand the behavior of lobsters in the wild, by Benjamin C. Gutzler

  • Towards Autonomous Situational Awareness for Hydrographic Autonomous Surface Vehicles, by Coral Moreno

  • Exploring life in the deep sea through seafloor characterization and habitat mapping, by Anne Hartwell

Moderator: Mark Wiley

Jaya Roperez: An International Team’s Success Story on Advancing Unmanned Seafloor Mapping

A group of alumni of the Nippon Foundation / GEBCO Training Programme at the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping / Joint Hydrographic Center – University of New Hampshire, with the help of commercial partners and academic institutions, has recently proved that diversity is a strength as they successfully met the challenges set by the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE to advance deep-sea technologies for autonomous, fast, high-resolution ocean exploration, by winning the grand prize. The team focused on leveraging existing cutting-edge technology to integrate with newly-developed systems for efficient unmanned seafloor mapping and made it possible through global, cross-sector collaborations and strong partnerships with technology and services providers. In total, there were 78 individuals from 22 countries who contributed to the success of the team, guided by a common goal – to map the ocean floor.

Benjamin C. Gutzler: Do lobsters get dinner to go? Coupling acoustic telemetry with dataloggers to better understand the behavior of lobsters in the wild

The daily behavior of most marine animals is poorly understood, due to the difficulty of observing them in their natural habitat. Although we have the means to track their movements using telemetry, it is still difficult to know what they are doing during their excursions, and what factors influence their movements. In order to address this challenge, we recently developed a datalogger capable of recording the acceleration, heading, heart rate, and feeding activity of freely moving lobsters. When these dataloggers are combined with transmitters for use in an acoustic telemetry array, we are able to track the movements of individuals and document their activities at each location. For example, one goal this summer is to determine how often lobsters eat in the wild, and whether they prefer to bring any prey they capture back to their den to consume there.

Coral Moreno: Towards Autonomous Situational Awareness for Hydrographic Autonomous Surface Vehicles

With increasing interest in the use of autonomous surface vessels (ASVs) to automate hydrographic data collection in support of safe navigation, there is a growing likelihood that ASVs will be operated in regions with uncertain or limited prior knowledge of where it is safe to navigate. In addition to this challenge, coastal environments may have significant boat traffic and other hazards for an unmanned vehicle, such as buoys, lobster pots and kelp. If ASVs are to operate safely and truly autonomously, means must be developed to increase the awareness of the ASV to its environment so that it can safely maneuver with minimal operator intervention. This talk will present how the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping uses ASV BEN for coastal mapping, where the autonomy of ASVs stands nowadays, and how autonomous situational awareness (ASA) is the next step for improving ASVs’ autonomy. ASA can be achieved using the sensors onboard the ASV (AIS, radar, LiDAR, and cameras) and electronic nautical charts. Due to the complementary nature of the ASV sensors, it is necessary to use sensor fusion algorithms. The research proposes a solution in the form of semantic occupancy grid, which  shows probabilistic locations of obstacles in a geo-spatial context in addition to information on the identification of the surrounding obstacles and a prediction of their future state. 

Anne Hartwell: Exploring life in the deep sea through seafloor characterization and habitat mappingThe study site, Dorado Outcrop, sits 3000 meter below the Pacific Ocean 60 miles from Costa Rica and hosts low temperature fluid discharge. Dorado is one of only a few known sites of its kind, although many more are predicted to exist, and it stands out because the abundance of data collected from it. In 2013 and 2014, two expeditions visited the site and collected ample video samples, fluid samples, and bathymetric data. The unique volume of data from an understudied geologic setting enables Hartwell to characterize the biological community based on the geological, chemical, and physical environment. The natural relationships identified at Dorado will be the foundation for the development of a model designed to predict the distribution of taxa based on environmental information.

Stegner Lecture: O’Chang Studios: Communicating science with cartoons

Andy O’Brien and Hanji Chang, founders of O’Chang Studios and Puckerbrush Animation


When Andy O’Brien and Hanji Chang (O’Chang Studios) first uploaded a cartoon skit between two Mainers chatting about ice fishing, snowmobiling and “drinkin’ whatevah” six years ago, they never envisioned that Temp Tales cartoons would generate millions of views and a loyal fanbase. They thought to themselves, “what if we could use our cartooning skills to educate our fans and their kids about the threat climate change poses to our fisheries and coastal communities?” This presentation is their story about how they’ve turned dry, complex science into a fun little series of animations called “A Climate Calamity in the Gulf of Maine”.


The Stegner Memorial Lecture is named in honor of Dr. Robert Stegner, a pioneer in marine education who died shortly after he retired from teaching at the University of Delaware. Bob hosted one of the first meetings of marine educators that would become the National Marine Educators’ Association, and was a central figure in charting the course for what marine education would become. His efforts also led to the creation of project COAST, one of the first marine education curriculum projects. Over the years, this Memorial Lecture has evolved into a variety of presentations, including lectures, musical presentations, and visual displays.

Hanji Chang is an artist, teacher and animator. Andy O'Brien is a writer, voice actor and communications director for the Maine AFL-CIO. Together they are the co-founders of Puckerbrush Animation (formerly O'Chang Studio), an animation and design studio based in Rockland, Maine.

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