Schoodic Institute’s Marine Ecology Program, directed by Hannah Webber, collaborates with local and regional science partners and engages citizen scientists of all ages, to understand mechanisms driving patterns of change in the Gulf of Maine’s dynamic intertidal system.
Fresh, brackish, and salt waters are among the most vital and vulnerable components of the Acadia National Park region’s natural resources. Schoodic Institute studies Acadia’s waters and the factors affecting them – and engages the public in research and learning. Changes in precipitation patterns, ocean chemistry, fisheries, and sea bird habitats increasingly affect aquatic and shoreland habitats on the coast of Maine.
Healthy Intertidal Stewardship
The intertidal faces multiple pressures. Understanding and indexing intertidal health allows managers to set targets and limits and focus efforts to maintain health in a dynamic, ever-changing edge system. But, what does it mean to have a healthy soft-sediment or rocky intertidal system? What is the role of foundation species in that healthy system, and how is health changing across a connected, larger system, in this case the Gulf of Maine? The Marine Ecology Program is studying these questions with the National Park Service and diverse stakeholders—harvesters, managers, regulators, artists, researchers, interpreters, and teachers.
Rockweed is a foundation species in the intertidal in the Gulf of Maine; it is also a harvested resource, contributing 90% of Maine’s $20M seaweed industry. How do pressures such as increasing harvest pressure as well as a changing climate affect the foundation role of rockweed? How do resource management decisions and conservation efforts affect harvest? What role does research on conserved lands play in understanding the role of rockweed? Our research interests include: How does harvest affect the foundation role played by rockweed—by changing architecture and by changing the regulatory effects on light, temperature, and wave action. The research also seeks to understand whether there are differences in harvest-related effects at high tide versus low tide. We are working with collaborators at the University of Maine, Maine Maritime Academy, and College of the Atlantic.
Cooperation in Frenchman Bay
Schoodic Institute cooperates with other local organizations, government agencies, and local resource users through Frenchman Bay Partners.
Research coordination across the Gulf of Maine
The Northeastern Coastal Stations Alliance (NeCSA) is a newly formed network of small field stations spanning the Gulf of Maine. NeCSA is focused on leveraging the potential for collaborative data collection and data sharing across the stations and enhancing training opportunities and public outreach to communicate the implications of environmental change in the Gulf of Maine.
Schoodic Institute participates on the steering committee and secured a grant to deploy temperature data loggers in the intertidal at 10 of the field stations. The collection of intertidal temperature data from locations across the Gulf, with data being shared, is a pilot to examine the network’s capacity for collecting and sharing data in a systematic, public, unified manner.
Ocean acidification monitoring
Schoodic Institute has deployed a sophisticated ocean chemistry monitoring unit off Schoodic Island to better understand ocean acidification in this part of the Gulf of Maine. The SeapHOx continuously measures ocean acidity, temperature, salinity, and dissolved oxygen.
The Gulf of Maine is particularly vulnerable to ocean acidification for several reasons: in addition to absorbing atmospheric carbon the Gulf receives a large volume of freshwater runoff that is usually more acidic than seawater, the Gulf receives high nutrient loads in this freshwater, the Gulf receives cold water from the Labrador current and colder water ‘holds’ more CO2, and the Gulf waters have low resistance to the addition of acid—they are poorly buffered.
“The SeapHOx is unique in this part of the Gulf—with it we can monitor near-shore water quality with precision and accuracy; we can look at changes on short timescales, and look at long-term changes in seawater chemistry,” says Hannah Webber, Schoodic Institute project manager. There are currently two other fixed-point, near-shore sensors like the SeapHOx collecting data in the Gulf of Maine, one in Casco Bay, and the other offshore in waters near the Isles of Shoals. “Adding this third stream of data to what is being collected in the western part of the Gulf will really expand what we know about changes in water chemistry across the whole Gulf, our greatest interest is in contributing to an understanding of ocean and coastal acidification.”