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USM's Theo Willis talks wildlife reemergence with American Journal

As workers begin the removal of the Presumpscot River Dam, University of Southern Maine researcher and faculty member Theo Willis will watch for the emergence of new wildlife.

Fish, birds, flies and the river bottom itself will likely change, slowly, as nature reasserts itself, Willis told reporter Chance Viles of the American Journal.

"This is a small section of the 20-mile river that at one point had nine to 10 dams on it," Willis told Viles. "It was essentially broken into 2-mile chunks. We are taking this one chunk out with fish passage, so this is the furthest up (the river) a fish has been able to get for nearly 300 years."

Some of the sights will be small, such as the emergence of mayflies up river. Others could be magnificent.

"If you are at the fish ladder the right time of year it's amazing," he said. "You have heron, gulls andeagles that are attracted to the runs. When the salmon come upstream it attracts other fish so you may see striped bass up there, herons that eat the juveniles and adults. It will be a spectacle in the middle of an urban environment. We are making guesses though, each water project is different in a way."

Willis serves as part of the research faculty of the USM Department of Environmental Science and Policy.