Guest Blog: Plant Sampling Yields Unexpected Treasures


Alex Gould from Bozeman, MT spent his summer with Dr. Nick Fisichelli as the Plant Ecology Technician working on National Park projects across the Northeastern United States. Alex is gathering data about forest health, wetlands, coastal intertidal zones, and tree phenology in order to better understand Acadia’s natural resources.

Working as a plant ecology technician for the Schoodic Institute and the National Park Service along the coast of Maine this summer was a lot of fun mixed with a few long days but the summer seems to have come to an end in the blink of an eye.  Throughout the course of the season I had a chance to help with plant sampling for a variety of projects, ranging from long term forest health assessments to surveys of the intertidal zone along Acadia’s coast.  With each new project I had a chance to meet new coworkers and had to learn new sampling methods along with the types of plants and biological indicators we were surveying.

Big Heath, Mount Desert Island

While there is no single aspect of my summer that ranks truly above the rest—though a few rainy days were on the low end—I distinctly remember a day while working on wetland sampling in the Big Heath of southwest Mount Desert Island, where a seemingly endless bushwhack resulted in discovering a surprisingly beautiful hidden clearing.  

My supervisor Kate Miller and I started into Big Heath on a misty morning in late July, hoping to sample two wetland sites which were also two of our furthest off trail hikes through dense shrubs and stunted spruce stands.  Our first site of the morning, only a half kilometer from the car, was thickly covered with shrubs which quickly shed their accumulated mist from the night before, soaking us thoroughly. From this soggy start we continued on through the heath until reaching our second survey site where we finally found relief from the dense vegetation of our hike as the survey site was centered in a small but spectacular clearing.

This hidden opening was home to a variety of orchids, most were luckily in bloom, along with other small bog flowers, and plenty of Acadia’s carnivorous plants.  In our short time there I managed to see a green snake slithering through its home among the mounds thick with mosses and a humming bird buzzing about in search of nectar.  

At the end of the day, despite my clothes being soaked through and my arms scratched from unyielding spruce branches, I still could look back at the beautiful heath and remember its hidden treasures.  I was lucky to have a chance to experience many small secrets like in the Big Heath throughout my summer here, and hope that I’ve helped to contribute, even if only a small bit, to the preservation and understanding of this magical area.