MACHIAS, Maine — Dr. Robin Hadlock Seeley was driving Wednesday from New York to Pembroke despite still recovering from the flu. She said she needed to come to testify today before the state’s Regulatory Fairness Board in Calais regarding the impact of mechanical and hand harvesting on Maine’s rockweed — a coastal seaweed.
This dedication to environmental issues is why Seeley stands out in her field and was recently honored by the Audubon Society with a $10,000 national Together Green Fellowship.
The fellowship, one of 40 awarded across the country, will enable Seeley to continue her work to protect the rockweed intertidal habitat by working with students, the public and policymakers.
“Rockweed plays a fundamental role in Maine’s coastal and estuarine ecosystems, serving as habitat for more than 100 fish and invertebrate species, as well as shorebirds and ducks,” Seeley said Wednesday. “Unregulated, industrial-scale cutting of rockweed threatens the fishing potential, ecological health and natural beauty that are vital to Maine’s future.”
Seeley is an assistant director at the Shoals Marine Laboratory in Maine, which is operated by Cornell University and the University of New Hampshire.
The fellowship is supported by a conservation alliance between Audubon and Toyota. It offers specialized training in conservation planning and execution, the chance to work and share best practices with gifted conservation professionals and assistance with project outreach and evaluation. The fellowship stresses community-focused projects that engage local residents in conserving land, water and energy and contributing to greater environmental health.
Seeley is working to preserve intertidal habitat in Maine by protecting rockweed beds from industrial-scale cutting. For her project, Seeley will expand on the work of the Rockweed Coalition, an organization she co-founded, by working with local educators to design lesson plans for elementary, middle and high school students on the value of seaweed habitat. She also plans to work with policymakers at the state level to promote the value of the intertidal habitat for Maine fisheries and wildlife.
Seeley has spent the last 10 years working on rockweed management, sharing scientific knowledge on the effects of rockweed cutting while also listening to local communities. She helped mobilize support for a Maine law that strictly manages the cutting of seaweed in Cobscook Bay by putting all federal, state and private conservation areas off-limits to commercial cutting.
“Robin is the kind of person who can make a real difference in the health of our environment and the quality of our future,” Audubon President David Yarnold said in a prepared statement. “Each of our Together Green Fellows demonstrates exceptional environmental understanding and commitment, combined with tremendous potential to inspire and lead others. Together, they represent the talented and diverse leadership the environmental community will need to tackle the huge challenges and opportunities confronting us today and in the years to come.”
Seeley said the award comes at a key time for the Rockweed Coalition.
“Support from Together Green provides a great boost to our work informing policy-makers and the public about the unrecognized breadth of ecological services provided by rockweed in Maine,” she said.
Seeley, a Maine native, earned her bachelor’s degree in biology and environmental studies from Bowdoin College, a master’s degree in zoology from the University of Rhode Island and her doctorate in biology from Yale University. She has served as an adjunct faculty member in the School of Marine Science, University of Maine.
A complete list of the 2010 Together Green Fellows can be found at www.TogetherGreen.org/fellows.