Downeast Institute Laboratory


The Downeast Institute (DEI) is located on Great Wass Island in Beals, Maine. The marine research and education organization serves eastern Maine through applied research, the production of clam spat for seeding mud flats, and by providing educational opportunities for local and visiting students. It functions as a field station and research facility for the University of Maine Machias. We began to work with DEI on a facilities master plan in 2009. The plan articulated a vision to become an education center to provide educational opportunities to local and regional schools; a flowing seawater laboratory for marine research opportunities in eastern Maine, as well as a producer of clam spat for commercial seeding. The education center was built in 2010. Our recent work creates the laboratory and office space and structural renovations to the existing building: a 6,400-square-foot former lobster pound, now used for shellfish production.


Downeast Institute
Beals Island, ME

During the master plan phase, we spent considerable time in programming, including visiting and analyzing similar facilities, cataloging specific tasks to be performed, and discovering how various users need to interact with their building, and with each other. Best practices for flowing seawater design were gleaned from visits to nearby labs as well as labs on the west coast.

The master plan also included a new pier and three more buildings: renovations to an existing dwelling, a boat storage and carpentry shop building, and a residence hall. The Education Center incorporates many of these best practices, including in choice of materials and in creating flexibility. The design and finishes are meant to provide nearly bulletproof conditions to handle the potentially disastrous combination of kids and seawater experiments. Lab services are surface-run to provide adaptability.

Seawater is common and ubiquitous on the coast; the challenge for researchers is that seawater cannot be easily created in the lab. A flowing seawater laboratory pumps seawater from the ocean into the laboratory building, where it is available as an on-demand process liquid, just like air or de-ionized water. Seawater rooms are designed to let researchers use conduct experiments in a continuously replenished, natural medium. Seawater typically comes in through an overhead line and goes back out to sea after entering a floor drain. The DEI flowing seawater laboratory has two large wet labs and three smaller climate-controlled flowing seawater labs. Three dry labs support the wet labs.

The original DEI facility, to which we added, is a 6,400-square foot indoor lobster pound. DEI uses this area for growing clams. Processes include raising algae for feed, conditioning clams to produce spawn, and then growing the clams until they can be used for clam flat reseeding. The project increases floor space by adding a mezzanine dedicated to algae operations. A boreal, or cold, room supports the growth of cold water species, such as arctic surf clams.

This project received funding from the University of Maine, Next Generation Foundation of Maine, Harold Alfond Foundation, National Science Foundation, Maine Technology Institute, C F Adams Charitable Trust, Maine Community Foundation, Camden National Bank, Dr. M Gayle Kraus, Bangor Savings Bank, Machias Savings Bank, and the Trust for Public Land.