Students to present results of research on forest and intertidal ecology in Downeast Maine

Students from Sumner Memorial High School have been conducting research on forest and intertidal ecology in Sullivan and on Schoodic Peninsula. The students will be presenting their findings at a poster session at Sumner Memorial High School on Thursday, May 4 from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. for an audience of scientists, resource managers, parents, teachers, and the public. For the past year, the Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park, working in cooperation with the Pathways program at Sumner, has engaged high school students in participatory research projects in which students ask research questions, collect samples, and analyze their own data.

Students graph preliminary data in preparation for presenting research on May 4 at Sumner Memorial High School. Hannah Webber photo.

Some students worked at sites in Frenchman Bay Conservancy’s Baker Hill Preserve—particularly at a forest gap where some time ago all the trees were knocked down, creating an opening in the forest canopy.

“Trees are long lived and thus forests can seem to be static, unchanging places,” says Nick Fisichelli, Director of Forest Ecology at Schoodic. “However, forests do change and looking in the right places at the right times can yield insights into forest dynamics. The work the Pathways students are doing with me will give us clues to how local forests may look in the future.”

The remainder of the students worked at Frazer Point and Arey Cove on the Schoodic Peninsula, collecting and looking at microscopic animals that live on rockweed. “The intertidal, the rockweed zone in particular, is a critical habitat for a number of commercially important animals. By studying changes in prey species for those larger animals we’re filling in the rockweed food web picture,” says Hannah Webber, intertidal specialist at Schoodic.

Bill Zoellick, Director of Education Research at Schoodic Institute, adds, “The work that these students are doing is not only helping Schoodic Institute with its long-term ecological research, but is also enabling us to explore new ways of connecting our work to the communities where we live that go beyond just talking about research. Here the students have been contributors and collaborators on the research team.”

This project is supported by Davis Family Foundation, the Morton Kelly Charitable Trust, and the Maine Timberlands Charitable Trust.

The poster session is open to the public.

Second Century Stewardship Names Three Fellows to Conduct Research in Acadia National Park

Three scientists have been awarded fellowships to conduct research in Acadia National Park as part of Second Century Stewardship, an initiative of the National Park Service, Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Second Century Stewardship was launched in 2016 upon the centennial of the National Park Service to provide top-quality science research for park stewardship, build public appreciation for science, and pursue solutions to critical issues for parks and society. The collaboration is initially focused at Acadia National Park in Maine, with plans to partner with national parks across the country over time.

Three research fellows have been named for 2017:

  • Allyson Jackson, a Ph.D. student in the Fisheries and Wildlife Department at Oregon State University
  • Alessio Mortelliti, Assistant Professor in the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Conservation at the University of Maine.
  • Chris Nadeau, a Ph.D. student in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department at the University of Connecticut.

The effects of climate change on Acadia National Park are at the forefront of the research of two of the fellows.

Mortelliti, whose lab research focuses on the effects of land-use change on mammals and birds, will focus on the northward movement of plant species as temperature increases. Many plant species currently reach their northern limit just south of Acadia and are expected to shift northward into the park.

He will explore how rodents in Acadia play a role in which plant species successfully colonize the park. He will use replicated field experiments to gain insights into which tree species may expand northward successfully.

“The results of our field experiments will allow managers to predict how local forest communities might change in the coming years and thus allow them to take the appropriate actions in time,” Mortelliti said.

Nadeau also studies the potential impacts of climate change on species around the globe, using modeling, field observation and experiments to predict where species are most vulnerable and determine how conservation groups can best mitigate the negative impacts of climate change on animal populations.

As a Second Century Stewardship fellow, Nadeau will concentrate his studies on the hundreds of freshwater rock pools dotting Acadia’s Schoodic Point. Although the pools are abundant, little is known about their biodiversity — and how that mix may fare under the effects of climate change.

“Understanding how biodiversity responds to climate change in freshwater rock pools could provide critical information about potential patterns of biodiversity change both locally and globally,” Nadeau said.

Jackson’s work is intended to advance the Second Century Stewardship goal of improving public understanding and appreciation of science by enlisting the participation of some of the park’s more than 3 million visitors each year. Citizen scientists will be enlisted to collect data on birds and aquatic insects for Jackson’s project, which seeks to quantify how contaminants such as mercury move through the food chain: from aquatic insects to the riparian birds that feed upon them.

Documenting and understanding resources that travel from aquatic to terrestrial ecosystems “is now critical as we manage for resilient ecosystems in the second century of stewardship at Acadia,” Jackson said.

The three 2017 Fellows will join inaugural SCS Fellow Abbey Paulson, who is using environmental DNA to increase understanding of patterns of biodiversity in Acadia and documenting a new baseline for monitoring of future change. In addition to research support and housing at Schoodic Institute, the Fellows will receive science communication training, and will contribute to development of resources to bring park science to classrooms across the country.

“The National Park Service relies on scientific knowledge as the foundation for protecting a great diversity of natural and cultural resources. The Second Century Stewardship research fellows will provide the best available science to help us manage and protect Acadia National Park for present and future generations,” said Acadia National Park superintendent Kevin Schneider.

Mark Berry, president and CEO of Schoodic Institute, said, “Acadia and our other parks represent an important opportunity to demonstrate the vital role of science in stewardship of the places we care for.”

Added Shirley Malcom, head of Education and Human Resources programs at AAAS, “We look forward to expansion of this initiative to other units, to help citizens across the nation recognize the importance of science in the preservation and management of our national parks, often referred to as ‘America’s Best Idea.’”

Initial funding for the program was donated by David Evans Shaw, a Maine-based entrepreneur, AAAS treasurer and executive producer of the film “Second Century Stewardship: Science Beyond the Scenery in Acadia National Park.”

About the Second Century Stewardship partner organizations: Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park is a close nonprofit partner to the NPS that is dedicated to advancing ecosystem science and learning for all ages. The Institute helps the NPS achieve the original vision for Acadia as a destination for science and inspiration, and seeks to be a national leader for research that inspires environmental stewardship. To learn more, visit www.schoodicinstitute.org.

More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 411 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Visit us at www.nps.gov, on Facebook www.facebook.com/nationalparkservice, Twitter www.twitter.com/natlparkservice, and YouTube www.youtube.com/nationalparkservice.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the Science family of journals. For more information, go to www.aaas.org.

The Second Century Stewardship  initiative engages in science through research fellowships and education programs for the benefit of parks and society. For more information, go to www.scsparkscience.org.

 

Transition for Program Leadership

by Mark Berry, Schoodic Institute President & CEO

 

With great regret, I have accepted the resignation of Erika Rowland as the Schoodic Institute Director of Programs.  Erika had quickly become an integral, valued, and universally well-liked member of our team.  Her leadership of our research and education program staff has been contributing to great progress for Schoodic Institute’s mission of advancing ecosystem science and learning for all ages.  Unfortunately, Erika now needs to devote her full attention to a family medical issue.  All of us at Schoodic Institute have Erika and her family in our thoughts at a difficult time.

The momentum Erika has helped to develop will continue.  The talented team at the Institute is managing a transition process as we search for our next Director of Programs to lead the Institute’s programs and partnerships in science and education.

During the transition, four of our core program staff will be taking on additional interim responsibilities.  Education and Research Project Manager Hannah Webber, who leads Schoodic Institute’s intertidal research programs, will provide team coordination.  Nick Fisichelli will oversee development of research and university partnerships, including internship programs, in addition to his work as Forest Ecology Program Director.  Bill Zoellick will provide leadership and oversight for all education programs and partnerships, expanding from his current role as Director of Education Research.  Bird Ecology Program Director Seth Benz will coordinate public outreach programs, including presentations, lectures, and family events.

For additional information about the Director of Programs position please visit our employment opportunities page here. To download a .pdf job description, click here.

Employment Opportunities for Field Technicians

Schoodic Institute is currently hiring to fill four temporary, full-time field technician positions for the summer and fall 2017 season. The field technician’s primary work location is on the Schoodic Peninsula near Winter Harbor, Maine and field work may occur throughout Acadia National Park. Residence is required on the Schoodic Education and Research Center campus (on the Schoodic Peninsula), and housing in a shared apartment will be provided by Schoodic Institute.

The four field technician roles include; forest ecology technician, biodiversity citizen science technician, migratory bird monitoring technician, and general ecology technician. The start dates and duration of stay vary for each position.

All field technicians perform field observation and sample collection, handling, and processing where necessary. Technicians will assist with citizen science and Earthwatch expeditions, and track and maintain equipment. Data collection and management of collected data will be the responsibility of each field tech.

The field technicians are mentored by Schoodic Institute staff. Once trained, they may lead volunteer field crews. Daily and weekly work schedules fluctuate. Work days can be up to twelve hours long. Some days may be split with morning and evening work. At times work will begin at dawn and go through dusk. The work week may include weekends. Qualified applicants need to be able to work in challenging outdoor conditions, learn on the go, work in small teams, and develop efficient field data collection techniques.


The forest ecology technician will primarily work on installing and sampling permanent forest monitoring plots, including identifying, tagging, and measuring overstory and understory trees and ground-layer vegetation. Additional duties and projects may include plant phenology monitoring, data entry and management, and temperature logger data collection.

As a general ecology technician this individual will work on a wide variety of projects including intertidal research, bird surveys, citizen science with Earthwatch, and forest sampling.

The biodiversity citizen science technician will conduct trail and forest surveys of birds, insects, and plant phenology monitoring using eBird, iNaturalist, and Nature’s Notebook (citizen science) apps. Additional duties include assisting with public workshops as well as data management.

The primary responsibility of the migratory bird monitoring technician will be to conduct daily point count of migratory seabirds. Additional duties may include songbird and raptor monitoring, data management, and producing weekly summaries (blog) of bird migrations on the Schoodic Peninsula.

To learn more about these positions or to apply, please visit our employment page here.

Acadia Senior College Explores Schoodic

Guest Blog by Ann Caswell, Acadia Senior College

In early March, nineteen ASC members bundled up to enjoy two days of outdoor activities and sunny skies at Schoodic Education and Research Center.  Billed as a “getaway,” the outing definitely delivered as promised. We didn’t go very far, but we certainly felt like we were away from our everyday routines and stresses.  As well as learning from the Schoodic Institute experts, we had a chance to connect with friends, meet new ones, and share some excellent wine and food in front of  roaring fires.

All Bundled Up — For our walk in Schoodic Woods with Nick Fisichellii, Institute Forest Ecologist

Upon our arrival, we introduced ourselves over a selection of soups, and then set off for Schoodic Woods, the new section of the Park, where we met with Schoodic Institute Forest Ecology Director Nick Fisichelli.  The wind chills felt as predicted – below zero in the gusts – but Nick kept us moving through the woods along the new carriage roads. He told us about his work studying the regrowth of forest, the effects of climate change, his efforts to involve students and citizen scientists.  We saw where moose had recently munched a birch tree snack and where old logging roads were returning to forest.

Happy Gathering at Schooner Commons for Wine Tasting

ASC instructor and owner of Sawyer’s Specialties in Southwest Harbor, Scott Worcester was on hand when we arrived back at Schooner Commons to warm up in front of the fireplace. He and Bob Bartlett, of Bartlett’s Winery in nearby Gouldsboro, poured and told us about several of the wines Bob has crafted from local fruits, including blueberry, apple, and pear. We were fortunate to have in our group Jim Vekasi, who, as Chief of Maintenance of ANP (now retired), oversaw much of the conversion of this facility from the military to the Park Service. His informal talk made us more aware and appreciative of the success story of Schoodic Institute. This wine and cheese hour was a great opportunity to interact before dinner was served.

A frigid but completely clear night sky opened up above us down at Schoodic Point, where amateur star-lover Ann Caswell was able to point out Venus, Mars, the circumpolar constellations, and the spectacular winter hexagon. We learned that Sirius, the brightest star in the sky, is only 8 light years away, while Rigel, in Orion, is seen by us as light which left that star during the time of Christopher Columbus.  Before dashing back to our cars, we were happy to observe the rising of Leo the Lion, a spring constellation promising warmer days to come.

Back at Schoodic Institute, we had the beautiful Moore Auditorium to ourselves, where we watched “The Big Year,” a comedy that pokes gentle fun at birders. The film also showcases some gorgeous scenery as Jack Black, Steve Martin, and Owen Wilson race all over the country trying to outdo each other sighting species.

After breakfast on Monday, the nineteen of us pitched in to prepare a multi-course lunch – all cooked with wood and charcoal at the Institute picnic pavilion. Retired NPS Ranger Ed Prontbriand and his twin brother Dan were somehow able to direct us in our efforts to cook up a feast using cast iron Dutch ovens.  After a couple of hours of  juggling hot coals and pot tops, we were able to chow down on lasagna, chicken and potato casserole, egg casserole, biscuits, blueberry crumble, and brownies.  Yes, we made all that and managed to eat it too.

Dutch Oven Cookery at the Picnic Pavillion

Birding with Schoodic Institute Bird Ecologist Seth Benz: 15 species and 81 individuals

Next and last was our birding trip with Schoodic Institute Bird Ecology Director Seth Benz.  As we walked from Rockefeller Hall to Arey Cove and on to Blueberry Hill, we noticed the wind had finally moderated. Seth and several of our own astute observers were able to point out 15 species of winter birds and 81 individuals.  These included great cormorants, buffleheads, grebes, eiders, eagles, and, perched on a dead tree on Schoodic Island, a rough-legged hawk.  Seth even knew that the Jack Black character in our movie was based on a real person who often comes birding in Acadia!

If Acadia Senior College hopes to provide Learning, Interaction, Stimulation and Fun, this Getaway certainly fit the bill. Participant Ruth Rossi Blaney echoed the thoughts of many when she said, “If ASC plans another Getaway, count us in!”

Acadia Winter Festival Highlights

Acadia Winter Festival attendees found their winter at Schoodic Institute last month. There was no shortage of snow, which set the scene for great outdoor fun! Institute President Mark Berry and Acadia National Park Superintendent Kevin Schneider kicked off the festival at Schoodic Woods Campground with cross country skiing in Acadia National Park.

Food always attracts a crowd, and so does retired Acadia National Park Ranger Ed Pontbriand’s outdoor dutch oven cooking workshop. Guests prepared meals and enjoyed their efforts while snow fell. Apple crisp and lasagna seemed to be the crowd favorites.

There was no shortage of snow for Quinzhee hut building with Chuck Whitney. The conditions were just right for participants to learn about winter camping and outdoor survival.

When it was time to warm up, participants came inside to learn more about salmon in the rivers of downeast Maine. Downeast Salmon Federation presented a lecture on DSF’s work to monitor, protect and restore this species, and their role in the seasonal cycle of anadromous fish, and the fisheries they support. An added bonus was tasting the locally harvested smoked fish.

Winter festival participants learned the fundamentals of staying safe and warm during Maine’s winter season. Ed and Kelly Pontbriand, park rangers and search and rescue specialists, answered questions about cold weather safety and survival and demonstrated what goes on behind the scenes when someone is lost or missing in the great outdoors. Thanks to our two ‘lost’ hikers who volunteered to hide during the search and rescue portion of the event.

The weekend concluded with “Timber” Tina Sheer and The Great Maine Lumberjacks entertain with wood chopping, sawing and ax throwing demonstrations. Participants had an opportunity to try their hand at it.

Hikes, a winter birding tour and evening lectures rounded out the weekend. COA professor Todd Little-Siebold presented “The History of Being Cold in Maine”. This interesting talk focused on the historical lifestyle changes experienced on the coast of Maine from the colonial past to modern day. Dr. Hal Borns of the University of Maine’s Climate Change Institute led evening lecture guests on ‘The Maine Ice Age Trail’. Dr. Borns explained how this event has shaped our coastal landscape, and demonstrates a major hemispheric-wide change in climate.

Schoodic Institute wishes to thank our guests and sponsors for making the 2017 Acadia Winter Festival a success.

McDonough MacKenzie receives Smith Conservation Research Fellowship

Caitlin McDonough MacKenzie, a 2016 Schoodic Institute Research Fellow has recently been awarded the prestigious David H. Smith Fellowship. McDonough MacKenzie will begin a new 2-year project in Acadia National Park. To learn more about her research, we invite you to read her post below. Congratulations Caitlin!

Guest Post by Caitlin McDonough MacKenzie

Over the past six years, my Boston winters have been spent planning springs in Maine. I conducted the field work for my PhD in Biology at Acadia National Park from 2011- 2016. And though I am defending my dissertation this spring, I’m happy to report that I’ll be back in Maine as a post-doctoral researcher! I received a David H. Smith Fellowship from the Society of Conservation Biology to work with Dr. Jacquelyn Gill at the University of Maine and Dr. Abe Miller-Rushing at Acadia National Park. My tradition of planning Maine field seasons continues…

As a PhD student, I studied species loss and shifts in spring flowering and leaf out in Northern New England plant communities. I considered some of this to be ‘historical ecology’ work because I combed through archives and pressed plants of herbarium specimens, and decoded the 19th century penmanship of botanists in their field logs to trace changes in the abundance of plant species over the last 125 years. But my Smith Fellowship research proposes some extreme historical ecology. I will be collecting sediment cores from lakes at and above treeline in Maine to track shifts in the relative abundance of pollen associated with alpine and subalpine plant communities over the last 12,000 + years. These sediment cores are ecological archives: pollen and plant fragments preserved in the lake-bottom sediment layers record vegetation changes through time.

The mountain cranberry and three-toothed cinquefoil we recognize today on the open ridges of Acadia represent communities of plants we consider relicts of the tundra vegetation that first colonized post-glacial Maine. Katahdin and the high peaks of the Appalachians support the largest and highest alpine areas in Maine. But, we know very little about the deep history of the plants at tops of these peaks — how did they respond to warming events in the past? Did tree line shift much higher than its current position? Sediment cores from Lakes of the Clouds below the summit of New Hampshire’s Mt. Washington reveal consistent fossil evidence of a subalpine habitat at that site: seeds of three-toothed cinquefoil (a species that loves open habitats), open-ground mosses, and few spruce needles. But what happened in Maine? Filling in these knowledge gaps can help us predict how the mountain communities of Maine will respond to anthropogenic climate change.

Conservation practitioners in Maine are grappling with how to protect alpine and subalpine vegetation in a changing climate. The islands of alpine and subalpine habitat above treeline in Maine are scattered across mountains that are owned and managed by several federal and state agencies and non-government organizations with varying conservation mandates and resource. As a Smith Fellow, I will collect the management positions, policies, and challenges for alpine and subalpine vegetation scattered across federal, state, and other conservation land in Maine and bring together resource managers from across New England to collaborate on conservation planning for the “sky islands” of alpine habitat. Reconstructing the history of tundra habitat on these mountains from pollen cores will provide a new perspective as we work to protect these vulnerable communities in the face of anthropogenic climate change.

Same ecosystem management, different climate – results may vary from the past

A new study published in Restoration Ecology and co-authored by Schoodic Institute Forest Ecology Director, Nick Fisichelli, examines the challenges of ecosystem management under continuously changing conditions and provides a decision-making structure for resisting, accommodating, and directing change. Land managers have sets of trusted approaches to achieve their conservation and resource extraction goals. Changes to ecosystem conditions, such as climate, presence of non-native species, and habitat fragmentation, mean the outcomes of management actions may differ from those of the past.

For example, drought conditions, salt water intrusion in freshwater systems, and dammed rivers are likely to impede management actions aimed at promoting the regeneration of desired native plant species and restoring past ecosystem conditions. Today, managers must assess not only current conditions but also projections of likely future conditions and the types and magnitudes of uncertainties about how the future will play out.

Forward-looking land management processes need to take into account these continuously changing conditions, to develop and reassess strategies and actions that achieve near-term and long-term goals. Changing conditions can mean both challenges and opportunities – some past goals may not make sense for future conditions but new conservation opportunities may arise that were not possible in the past.

Journal article website. Please contact N. Fisichelli for a copy of the article: nfisichelli@schoodicinstitute.org.

Get Your Senior Pass to Acadia National Park!

The National Park Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Senior Pass provides access to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites, including Acadia National Park. The Senior Pass will be on sale at the Gouldsboro and Winter Harbor, Maine town offices, and Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park on select dates in February and March.

The lifetime Senior Pass is currently available for a one-time purchase of $10. The fee will increase to $80 later this year. The Senior Pass is available to U.S. citizens and permanent residents who are 62 years or older. It covers entrance fees and provides discounts on some other recreation fees, such as camping. The Senior Pass admits the pass owner and accompanying passengers in a noncommercial vehicle to Acadia National Park and other recreation sites across the country. Eighty percent of the proceeds are used to improve and enhance visitor services and facilities at Acadia National.

The Senior Pass may be purchased in person with proper photo identification showing date of birth (i.e., state driver’s license, state identification card, U.S. passport, or Permanent Resident Card) on the following dates:

Gouldsboro Town Office, 59 Main Street, Prospect Harbor:

February 16, 12 – 1:30 pm

February 28, 9:30 – 11 am

March 15, 4 – 5:30 pm

March 31, 8:15 – 9:15 am

Winter Harbor Town Office, 20 School Street, Winter Harbor:

February 16, 9:30 – 11 am

February 28, 12 – 1:30 pm

March 15, 2:30 – 3:30 pm

March 31, 10 – 11 am

Schoodic Institute (Schooner Commons), Schoodic Education and Research Center, Acadia National Park:

February 11, 11 am – 1 pm

Entrance passes are also available for purchase at the Acadia National Park Headquarters visitor center in Bar Harbor (please call 207-288- 3338 for office hours and directions).

Beautiful and Busy: An Intern’s Look at Schoodic Institute in January

Guest Blog by Chelsea Alley

It’s easy to forget how beautiful the Schoodic Peninsula is when you see it every day. And while slogging through routine it’s also easy to forget the life that seems to pulse through this area of Maine. I took a walk around Schoodic Institute’s campus at the beginning of the month, trying to catch a glimpse of a red breasted nuthatch, and was amazed how alive everything felt, even in the dead of winter. The trees creaked in the wind, and the waves crashed on the shore just out of sight, and I was taunted by the elusive nuthatches calling to each other from the tops of trees far above my head. Many think that when summer ends Acadia goes to sleep, but that is simply untrue, and my view of this was reinforced when I joined the hubbub of Schoodic Institute.

I was privileged to have the time and opportunity to intern at Schoodic Institute for the month of January: participating in the various experiences, research, and activities that go on even in the quiet months of winter. In my time here, I learned about bird and forest ecology, worked with Hannah Webber and the Sumner Pathways Program’s project on rockweed, saw a presentation highlighting the unique partnership between Schoodic Institute and Acadia National Park, attended a Brown Bag lecture on the migrations of three different, yet connected species, and learned about the importance of science communication in a place where research, education, and citizen science happen hand-in-hand, year-round.

Something I think is wonderful about Schoodic Institute is the dedication not only to “pure,” isolated research, but also to research involving citizen scientists and community members, and educating about research and scientific inquiry. The people at Schoodic Institute are always searching for, and finding, ways to connect the research done there with an outside audience, creating education opportunities, providing a place for others to conduct research, and working in partnership with other institutions.

This drive to connect makes Schoodic Institute even more than just a beautiful research site. I’ve learned that you can’t make people care about everything, but if you can engage people in the work, showing them why they should care about something, they might.  Schoodic Institute is an ideal location for research, citizen science, and for showing people why learning about the environment and climate change is important, even in January.

Chelsea Alley is a second-year Environmental Studies student at Hollins University, and a life-long resident of Winter Harbor. She is an intern at Schoodic Institute for the month of January working in science communications.