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If there was ever a fisherman who could be described as a Renaissance man, it's Carter Newell '77.
Newell spends much of his work week as staff biologist for Great Eastern Mussel Farms in St. George, Maine, but also manages to keep up a 20-year association with the Pemaquid Oyster Co., which he co-founded with Jeff McKeen '76 and Chris Davis '78. Newell produces academic papers with regularity, hopes to finish his doctorate at the University of New Brunswick next year and is a one-man advocate and entrepreneur for aquaculture development along the vast Maine coast. In his spare time, he fiddles with the Old Grey Goose, one of Maine's longest-running folk ensembles, and somehow manages to find time for his wife and family. He has four children, including a new baby.
It's a simple matter of scheduling, Newell implied during an interview not far from the docks in Damariscotta where some of his oyster trade takes place: "Three days for mussels, one day for oysters, one day for writing and fiddling." Much of his academic work is done during the winter, when the fishing is slow "and there's a lot of quiet time along the coast."
A Connecticut native, Newell found Maine much to his liking when he arrived at Colby, and aside from travel for academic and commercial endeavors he's been here since graduation. It was while on a Watson Fellowship in Scotland, studying snails, that he first became intrigued by the possibilities of commercial aquaculture. When he asked about a research program specializing in shellfish, he was referred to the University of Maine's Darling Center in Boothbay Harbor. "Imagine having to travel all that way to find that out," he said. A few years later, he had his master's degree from UMaine and a budding career.
Newell takes an empirical, pragmatic approach to building aquaculture operations. A lot of Maine fisherman aren't going to be impressed by a get-rich-quick pitch, he said, "but if you can show them how to do it, provide the tools and outline the opportunity, they'll give it a try." He's run seminars all along the Maine coast, and his companies sell seed oysters and mussels to get newcomers started. "Even if they're just looking for supplemental income between fishing seasons, it can be worth it," he said.
Eventually Newell would like to cut back some of the hard physical labor"the 85-hour weeks at sea, the diving in cold water"and spend more time promoting and studying his chosen field. He's done recent presentations in New Orleans, Seattle and Holland. A faculty advisor once told him to write at least one research paper a year, and he's taken that advice: "It keeps you fresh, it keeps you on top of your field."
Casting back to Colby days, he says he appreciates that, despite spending much of his time in the biology labs, the College emphasized and required a liberal arts course. "I can still remember [Mark] Benbow's Shakespeare course and John Mizner's on existential literature. They teach you to write, and I can't tell you how valuable that's been."
Despite his academic bent, Carter Newell retains much of the saltiness and dry humor of the Maine coast. "I count it a good day on the water," the captain of two fishing vessels said, "when there's no whining from the crewand no biologist jokes."
Douglas Rooks '76
The Colby Difference: The Inauguration of William D. Adams
Nuclear Fiction: Daniel Traister '63 Delves Into the Fiction of World War II
The Hot Zone and the Cold War: Frank Malinoski '76 Investigates Biological Warfare
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College Colby Magazine 4181
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