April 18, 2021
From the moment she began reading about Buzz Scott and his mission on and under the Gulf of Maine’s warming waters, Barbara Lawrence was hooked.

Lawrence, founder and president of Stewardship Education Alliance (S.E.A.), a Midcoast nonprofit launched a year earlier, was sure she’d found a kindred spirit in Scott. With his role as educator, mentor, and advocate for environmental stewardship, Scott and Lawrence shared similar paths – paths that she knew could lead the two to the same goal. That is, helping young people become aware of the natural world around them and realize those natural treasures they stand to inherit, and embrace the importance of protecting them.

Scott – who Lawrence had read about in Working Waterfront, a publication of the Maine-based Island Institute – is founder and director of OceansWide, an educational nonprofit based in Newcastle that gives students the opportunity to get a firsthand look into the past, present and future of the Gulf of Maine through unique, hands-on experiences guided by educators, research scientists, archeologists and historians.

As a former teacher, professor, and consultant with the Rural School and Community Trust, Lawrence immediately recognized that S.E.A. and OceansWide shared goals. The more she and Buzz Scott talked, the more it seemed it might be possible to bring Buzz and his team to Camden to work with students.

For the past several years students at Camden’s Watershed School have been studying the effects of climate change on Camden Harbor. Bringing OceansWide to work with them seemed the perfect match.

Headmaster Will Galloway and science teacher Mila Plavsic, PhD agreed that Buzz and his team could give their students a unique perspective and add to their understanding of Camden Harbor.

The OceanWide team includes two members who operate an underwater camera – referred to as an ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) – who operate in tandem with a drone pilot and several divers.

Scott’s dive team last winter began scouting Camden Harbor, observing and cataloging marine life, including large starfish along the perimeter. The most notable finding, however, was that years of dredging had scoured the middle of the harbor, leaving it lifeless.

From that discovery was born the idea of restoring oysters to the harbor – a plan that S.E.A. now calls the Harbor Oyster Project, a planned interdisciplinary project connecting students, teachers and communities working together to create and maintain clean, healthy harbors by restoring native shellfish populations to our local harbors and adjacent coastal waters.

Committed to expanding oyster cultivation, shell recycling, education and advocacy, the S.E.A.Harbor Oyster Project’s overall goal is to improve water quality, increase diversity of sea life and confront and mitigate the effects of climate change.

On April 7 Scott and his colleague Matt Lewis visited Watershed to talk about their own experiences, and what students might discover in the harbor.

On Thursday Buzz brought his full team including Greg Perkins, a marine engineer and ROV pilot. Students in small groups rotated through four different events. With the help of Captain Dom Gioia from Camden Harbor Cruises, students aboard Periwinkle explored the harbor with the ROV. Matt Lewis introduced students to the drone giving each one the chance to operate it.

Meanwhile, Joee Patterson, who works with OceansWide and is a member of the S.E.A. Board, along with a colleague dived the harbor from a floating dock provided for the day by Bayview Management They bought up several large starfish, a pipe fish, hermit crabs, sea fleas, and other marine life, for students to observe, as well as debris including a discarded plastic pot.

Students also had a chance to learn about the elver fishery with Nick Stilwell from the Marine Patrol, and Alison McKellar from Camden’s Board of Selectmen.

Elvers, also referred to as glass eels, are baby eels that migrate from the Sargasso Sea near Bermuda to America’s East – including Camden Harbor – each spring. They travel from saltwater where they were born, to freshwater where they will live for years and even decades before migrating back to the Sargasso Sea to spawn and die.

Jay Burnett, S.E.A. board member and leader of The Oyster Project, spoke to students about how oysters benefit a harbor and are a natural solution to helping clean marine and estuarine environments.

Burnett and Lawrence visited Community Shellfish in Bremen the previous day, where Boe Marsh and Zak Alexander gave a tour of the Lincoln County oyster farm. As part of his presentation to students the next day, Burnett was able to offer fresh oysters to students, who enjoyed the delicious briny taste of Community Shellfish’s Cora Cressy oysters. ( )

ROVing Day provided Watershed students experiences that will lead to new opportunities, with several students answering Scott’s call for any interested in learning to dive to join OceansWide’s diving program and become part of the organization’s planned program to lift abandoned lobster traps, known as ghost traps, from Camden Harbor.