Young visitors to the Downeast Institute’s ribbon cutting ceremony earlier this month enjoy the newly installed touch tank in the facility’s lobby. CHRIS CARY PHOTO

Downeast Institute celebrates expansion

BEALS — The sparse population of Great Wass Island increased by a substantial factor earlier this month as visitors flocked to celebrate the grand opening of the newly expanded $6.6 million facility of the Downeast Institute (DEI) on Saturday, Aug. 11

The expansion incorporates a state-of-the-art shellfish hatchery and created the easternmost marine research laboratory and education center in the United States. The expansion of the hatchery facility nearly doubles the space available to produce clams, quahogs, oysters, surf clams, lobsters, mussels and razor clams for fisheries enhancement, research and development.

With its newly expanded facility, the Downeast Institute aims to serve marine scientists from around the world as well as boosting Maine’s own marine research capacities.

The day got under way with University of Maine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy and DEI Chair Lynn Alley cutting the ribbon during the opening ceremony and continued into the afternoon with 10th Annual Shellfish Field Day festivities.

Visitors to the opening ceremony had the opportunity to tour the new facility and see where DEI grows shellfish and the algae used to feed them. Children enjoyed a chance to explore the marine life in the institute’s new touch tank.

DEI’s eight new specialty laboratories include a large ecology and physiology laboratory with running seawater, a quarantine laboratory and a climate-controlled laboratory. The facilities will be available to scientists and entrepreneurs from the region and elsewhere.

A new residence hall expands access to DEI’s campus and provides accommodations for up to 20 students, interns and visiting scholars. DEI serves as the Marine Science Field Station for the University of Maine at Machias, whose students and faculty will also benefit.

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