Last Thursday a group of 7th-graders at Bath Middle School presented their ideas for products that will help protect the environment. Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record

BATH — After spending months learning from and researching alongside environmental scientists, last Thursday a handful of 7th graders from Bath Middle School presented their ideas for products to help save the oceans and the environment.

Since the beginning of the school year, 7th graders at Bath Middle School have worked with research scientists to learn about different threats to the ocean and its ecosystem, such as global warming, pollution and green crabs.

“This project was really important not only for building our (research) skills, but we were focusing on ocean sustainability or sustainability in general,” said Declan Wright. “It’s really important to protect our oceans and our future. Time is running out, so it’s important that we start trying to find solutions.”

Students presented six products which ranged from Seaweed Wrappers, an all-natural substitute for plastic food bags, to Biotive Fuel Technology, a diesel substitute made from algae.

The project also incorporated language arts, as the students memorized a speech to present their product. For many students, this was their first public speaking experience, and many agreed they were nervous, they said they’re glad they were able to face their fear.

“Even though it was stressful, now that it’s done I want to keep doing the research,” said Wright.

Dr. Marissa McMahan, a senior fisheries scientist at Manomet, an environmental research organization, taught the students about the risk green crabs pose to the oceans and Maine’s fishing industry and taught them how to identify a green crab.

Green crabs both eat baby lobster and soft-shelled clams and destroy eelgrass, underwater vegetation that serves as a habitat and prevents erosion, on their hunts for clams.

“Instead of staring at a textbook, we got to interact with (the environment) and do the research ourselves,” said Waylon Rhorer. “It was much more independent than normal classwork.”

McMahan said learning to incorporate the invasive species into cuisine both mitigates the damage they cause and adds another export to Maine’s fishing industry, which relies heavily on lobster.

According to a 2018 commercial landings report from the Maine Department of Marine Resources, lobster makes up 76 percent of Maine’s seafood industry.

“That’s a very precarious place to be in,” said McMahan. “If anything happens to that species, we’d see a collapse in Maine’s seafood industry.”

The green crab population grew exponentially in the 1950s, subsided, then reappeared with a vengeance in 2012 and have been an issue for fishermen ever since. During its three-year life cycle, a single green crab can leave behind 370,000 offspring.

McMahan said the warming ocean, particularly in the Gulf of Maine, facilitates the growing green crab population, as they prefer warmer water.

In the coming year, McMahan and her team are trying to force the crabs to molt by manipulating water temperature, extending the green crab soft-shell season, which is May through July.

Comments are not available on this story.