Schoodic Institute Education Research: A New Take on Teacher Leadership

By Catherine Schmitt, Science Communication Specialist


Over the course of his work with schools, teachers, and communities to engage students in locally relevant science, Schoodic Institute Education Research Director Bill Zoellick realized the importance of teacher leaders as partners who can amplify the work of Schoodic Institute is doing and make it sustainable. Teachers can influence other teachers and school decisions, change instructional practices, and affect state and national education policies. This kind of leadership is necessary to ensure that all students have access to locally relevant science learning opportunities. 

Research on teacher leadership provides guidance to these efforts, ensuring successful programs and positive impacts on students. But education researchers have different definitions of “teacher leadership.” Zoellick and Jill Harrison Berg set out to clarify terms and create a framework to advance the field of education science. They hosted discussions among some 70 participants in the American Educational Research Association’s Teacher Leadership Congress, and mapped and analyzed the ideas and common themes. They identified four key dimensions of teacher leadership (legitimacy, support, objectives, and methods). This last month, the results were published in the Journal of Professional Capital and Community.

“We hope this framework helps researchers and practitioners avoid talking past each other when they share new thinking about ‘teacher leadership,’ said Zoellick. “Jill and I hope that our work will improve our ability to improve support for teacher leaders, which, in turn, is all about improving what schools can provide to students.”

Read the full article.

Learn more about Schoodic Institute’s work with students and teachers.




Fifty years of counting birds on New Year’s Day

By Catherine Schmitt, Science Communication Specialist

Two-thousand nineteen dawned gray and windy, after an overnight storm of snow, sleet and rain. At nine a.m. it was raining and 39 degrees at Schoodic Point. Northeast winds piled crashing pale-green waves against the rocks, throwing mist and spindrift into the air. In places the shore was covered with foam.

The raw conditions did not deter a handful of visitors from searching for birds as part of the Christmas Bird Count at Schoodic Point. Volunteers have been conducting the annual survey here for fifty years straight, and a bit of wind and spray would not deter them. Will Russell came all the way from Arizona to participate, after counting birds there and in North Carolina and Virginia. “I did the Schoodic count once before, perhaps 40 years ago,” he said. “It was a pleasure to return, especially on such a wild and atmospheric day.”

The Schoodic count is one of around thirty in the state. Between December 14 and January 5, volunteers across the country document every bird they see in a given area during a set period of time, contributing their data to the National Audubon Society. The idea started in 1900, when Frank Chapman, concerned as many were about declining bird populations, started a census as an alternative to the holiday tradition known as the Christmas “Side Hunt,” when teams of hunters would compete to see who could shoot the most birds, according to the Audubon Society.

The census retains a sense of friendly competition. The first day of January is a big day for birders, a time to jump-start one’s “list” for the year. For Schoodic Institute’s Bird Ecology Program Director Seth Benz, the first day’s birds are a portent of the year to come.

The 25 observers, coordinated by Benz, knew the raw conditions would actually make for pretty good coastal birding. The winds that sent thundering breakers rolling toward shore also pushed birds that normally stay offshore closer to the coast. Kittiwakes cruised through the troughs between wave crests. Razorbills and gannets seemed unfazed by the turbulence. It was, in a word, “spectacular,” said Benz. The lighting, too, with an overcast sky and pale green sea, made a good background for detecting birds: great cormorant, red-throated loon, common loons, black-backed, herring, and Iceland gulls. The most surprising were three dovekie, the smallest and rarest members of the alcid family on the East Coast.

View the 62 species and one “cw” species (Count Week which means it was not seen on count day but was within the allotted timeframe to be on an honorable mention list for the week) HERE.

Will went over to check Blueberry Hill, while Benz and volunteer David Manski checked the cove between the point and Big Moose Island. Two bald eagles flew overhead. Out on the roaring sea, more loons, and long-tailed ducks, goldeneyes, guillemots, buffleheads, scoters. Russell, who founded the international bird tour company WINGS, used to live in Seal Harbor and is writing a book about the birds of Acadia National Park. “I traveled here in part because I have a life-long love affair with this part of the Maine Coast.” And, for the book, he needed to update his sense of winter bird distribution.

“The count gives us a snapshot of the wintering birds across the United States,” explained Benz. “If we are consistent with the date, we can compare data over time.” For example, reports from other count circles indicate that overall numbers of land birds–goldfinch and sparrows, in particular–were few and far between this year. “Our day counting at Schoodic certainly substantiates that claim,” said Benz.

The sun began to break through a seam in the clouds, and Benz and Manski walked the Schoodic Institute campus to look for forest birds, finding only a few stray chickadees, an immature bald eagle, and crows. Later in the day, large flocks of pine grosbeaks swept through the count area. Will Russell was back at the point, scanning the waves.

The ritual has become a tradition that many participants look forward to, with community gatherings and celebrations, camaraderie in sharing time out-of-doors, in winter, to witness and wonder at the living world.




Sierra Magazine Reports on Schoodic Institute Forest Research


“We are working with forests at Schoodic Institute to understand how climate change will affect trees, and what measures we can take to foster healthy forests in the future,” said Schoodic Institute’s Director of Science, Dr. Nick Fisichelli in response to a recent story by Madeline Ostrander of Sierra Magazine.

The article published this month in the national magazine of the Sierra Club sites efforts of researchers and scientists like Fisichelli, who are studying plots of trees on the Schoodic Institute campus in Acadia National Park and other park locations. Plots consist of wild seed, while others are full of seedlings from nursery stock. Collectively, the plots are part of a radical experiment: a wide-ranging search for trees that will be able to sprout and or survive in this national park decades from now—when things get hotter, drier, and much more uncertain.

Read the full story HERE.











A successful season for the Downeast Phenology Trail

By Libby Orcutt, Senior Field Tech

The conclusion of the 2018 season marked the end of the third year for the Downeast Phenology Trail (DPT). The Downeast Phenology Trail was created to help advance scientific research in Acadia National Park and throughout all of Downeast Maine while providing the opportunity to engage volunteer citizen scientists in the data collection process. Participation in citizen science projects helps scientists gain a greater understanding of the natural world, while volunteers increase personal knowledge on science and environmental issues. Whether one unfolds a protein or collects phenology observations, participation in citizen science fosters a deeper connection to one’s community and the environment that all can appreciate.

Phenology, or nature’s calendar, is the study of plant and animal life cycle events. It includes tracking the timing of flowering and fruiting plants, emergence of insects, and bird migrations.

Millions of songbirds migrate north every spring and even more birds head south along our coastline in the fall. As they travel the long distances needed to reach their southern destinations they need stopovers where they can refuel on fruits and insects. As the climate changes temperatures are going up. As things heat up the timing of fruits ripening and insects emerging is happening earlier and earlier. But, birds are migrating south later and later. Will there be any fruits or insects left for the birds when they migrate through our region in the fall? Schoodic Institute has partnered up with the National Phenology Network, to use their Nature’s Notebook citizen science tool, along with Centro de investigación Científica de Yucatán, Acadia National Park, Blue Hill Heritage Trust, Downeast Lakes Land Trust, Fields Pond Audubon Center, Island Heritage Trust, Frenchman Bay Conservancy, Great Pond Mountain Conservation Trust, and Petit Manan National Wildlife Refuge to set up the Downeast Phenology Trail–to try and answer that research question and more.

2018 was an outstanding year for the Downeast Phenology Trail. We held 8 app training sessions and 7 field training sessions that was attended by over 150 citizen science volunteers. We added two new partners and expanded the project from 7 trail locations to 13. At those 13 locations, 21,693 observations were made on 19 plant species using Nature’s Notebook. Since, the start of the project there have been 33,118 observations made by 294 observers.  Every observation that is made helps researchers fill in data gaps. When an observation is made, using Nature’s Notebook, that data gets stored in their online database where they become available to researchers, land managers and anyone with a Nature’s Notebook account. It can take years of data to see how the timing of the phenophases change. The DPT is building a baseline of phenology data in the Downeast region of Maine. This collection of data will allow questions, like ours, to be answered.

eBird and iNaturalist are two more apps that are used to collect data on the Downeast Phenology Trail. The first, eBird, is to survey what birds are present at each trail and when they are present. The second, iNaturalist, is used to record what and when other organisms are seen on the trails with a focus on arthropods. So far there have been 146 observers that have made 1,030 observations on 309 different species in our Downeast Phenology Trail iNaturalist project,

During DPT fieldwork as Senior Field Tech,  I regularly heard comments like these from our volunteers; It was an eye opening experience to see how the research contributes to the bigger picture of things but also helped educate me on many gaps that I have when it came to nature and how we are harming it.” And, “The training helped me to develop a more environmentally aware mindset as it provided a great platform for dialogue on climate change and addressing environmental issues.”

How can you help? Find one of our trails near you and become a volunteer. Use just one of the apps or all three; the choice is up to you. You can record phenology data using Nature’s Notebook. You can submit birding checklists using eBird. You can capture biodiversity using iNaturalist. Have questions contact Elizabeth Orcutt at and don’t forget to check out our website

The DTP partners send a heartfelt thanks to all the volunteers that helped with our project.




Catherine Schmitt Named Science Communication Specialist

Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park is pleased to announce the appointment of Catherine Schmitt as Science Communication Specialist. In this new role at Schoodic Institute, Schmitt will communicate the work of Schoodic Institute scientific staff and Second Century Stewardship research fellows, as well as research in Acadia National Park, past and present.

Schmitt has a background in both science and writing, including a master’s in ecology and environmental science from the University of Maine and a master of fine arts in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine Stonecoast MFA program. Schmitt is a frequent contributor to newspapers, magazines, and literary journals, and her writing about Acadia has appeared in Friends of Acadia Journal, Island Journal, Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors, and Mount Desert Island Historical Society’s magazine, Chebacco. Her most recent book, Historic Acadia National Park, was part of a series by Lyons Press in honor of the National Park centennial in 2016.

“Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park is excited to have someone of Catherine’s talents and commitment help us pursue collaborative solutions to critical environmental challenges through  discovery and learning,” said Schoodic Institute President and CEO Don Kent. “She will help people make sense of their environment, sense that leads to healthy and prosperous communities.”

“The Acadia region has a long and rich history of science, including participation by students and citizens. I am excited to share these stories, as well as to highlight current research in the Park,” said Schmitt. “Science is an important part of understanding the many environmental changes affecting Acadia and other parks across the country, and enhancing understanding of the world around us is crucial to finding solutions to many of today’s problems.”

Schmitt has taught courses on science writing, science communication, and composition at the University of Maine, and often presents on science communication to students, scientists, and outreach professionals.

“We welcome Catherine and her depth of experience in science communication to the Schoodic Institute team,” said Acadia National Park Superintendent Kevin Schneider. “A significant role in managing natural and cultural resources involves communication to create understanding and support for the research and science conducted in Acadia National Park.”  

Schmitt previously directed communications for the Maine Sea Grant College Program at the University of Maine. Prior to joining Sea Grant as a science writer in 2004, she was a research assistant at UMaine’s Senator George J. Mitchell Center. She has conducted a diverse range of field work throughout the Northeastern U.S., from wetland delineation and environmental site assessment to monitoring salt marshes, coastal waterbirds, and water quality in lakes and streams. She has studied the environmental history of the Penobscot River watershed and wild Atlantic salmon, covered in her book, The President’s Salmon: Restoring the King of Fish and its Home Waters.




Institute Staff and Techs Attend 2018 ANP Science Symposium


The Acadia National Park Science Symposium was held on Saturday, October 20, 2018. Over 100 people attended the event held at The College of the Atlantic – many being students with an interest in research and science in Acadia National Park.

Schoodic Institute staff and field technicians were attendees and presenters. Diana Gurvich (pictured below) presented research on Acadia National Park island forests, and 25 years of change and stability. Learn more about the forest ecology program HERE.

Diana Gurvich

Marcella Heineke presented on the intertidal and forest passive warming experiment. This summer 2018 effort by Schoodic Institute staff and college interns, Henry Locke from Colby College and Brian Zabilski from Columbia University, involved building passive warming chambers that raise temperatures in experimental plots in the intertidal zone and in a forest opening. This is research technique helps examine how species in Acadia are responding to climate change.

Hannah Webber


Libby Orcutt

Schoodic Institute Research and Education Projects Manager Hannah Webber, (above) and field tech Libby Orcutt (here) presented on citizen science and public engagement in Acadia National Park. Orcutt’s work on citizen science and the Downeast Phenology Trail can be found HERE.

Nick Fisichelli leads SCS moderation.

A special session focused on the Second Century Stewardship program. Five SCS fellows took part in a panel discussion after presenting information on their individual research. Schoodic Institute  Forest Ecology Director Nick Fisichelli moderated the panel.

David E. Shaw

Attendees had the privilege of hearing from Second Century Stewardship founder and supporter, David Evans Shaw. Shaw shared remarks about the importance of science and research in national parks across the country, advancing science and engaging with audiences of all ages – not just those who visit national parks, but all people, each of whom has a share in protecting and preserving our nation’s natural places and maintaining the vital health of our air, soil and water.

The SCS project was made possible in part by a grant from the National Park Foundation through the generous donation of David E. Shaw.

Photos by D. Manski


Guest Blog: Migration Watch from Schoodic Point


Guest Blog by Earl Johnson

Now I’ve never been exactly what you’d call a morning person, but five days a week, I crawl out of my bed (or camper or sleeping bag as is sometimes the case), and find my way to Schoodic Point half an hour before the sun comes up.  Technically I do this to fulfill my obligations as this fall’s SeaWatch Migration Monitor. In addition to showing up for work though, there are innumerable other things that make me excited to get out there and see what’s happening on any given morning.  Most days I’m the first one out there. The quiet is pretty unreal and it’s easy to forget about as the morning progresses and the sounds of automobiles and lobster boats gradually take over but for those first minutes of semi-darkness in the breaking dawn it feels like it’s just me and the waves and it’s incredible.  

Photo by Earl Johnson

Oftentimes I hear pods of Harbor Porpoise blowing and splashing before I see them.  Not a sound I ever thought I’d get used to but it’s become a part of my life out there at the SeaWatch.  I spend my days scanning the horizon with scope or binoculars or the naked eye, (sometimes cursing myself for not bringing enough hot coffee) hoping to see and count birds in migration.  By the numbers, me and Schoodic Institute’s Bird Ecology Program Director, Seth Benz, saw an average of 461 migrating waterbirds each day through the month of September. Some days are busy (our best this month was September 30th at 1584 migrants) and some are slow (we had 2 days where zero birds were counted due to heavy fog).  These numbers fall short of telling the whole story though. On any given day, even if there aren’t migrating birds to count there’s always something to watch out on the point.  

If there is decent visibility, you can see any number of our resident birds and mammals, including some pretty interesting humans that seem to gravitate to the point for photo shoots.  Then there are the waves and the clouds and the water, always something to draw your focus. The constant motion and the sense of mystery are the main things that draw me to ‘seawatching’.  You never know if it’s going to be a record setting day where you get to witness the spectacle of avian migration in the tens of thousands or a slower (but equally rewarding) one where you are privy to the spectacle of waves and water crashing on the rock with little else moving out there.

Photo by Seth Benz

It’s often a toss-up weather the birds will be near or far.  Some are identifiable without the use of binoculars, and others, especially big flocks, are only detectable with the help of a high powered spotting scope.  As with raptor migration, the waterbird movement seems to be driven at least in part by wind and weather conditions. Some days the stars align and the flight lines are near the point, allowing for close observations.  Other days I’m struggling to get a general idea for what species compose a distant flock I’m studying. No two days of counting are alike and trying to puzzle out why one day is great while another falls flat with seemingly identical conditions is a question that presents itself repeatedly.

Bird migration is a marvel that in many cases passes quietly without our notice.  The honking of geese or giant flocks of blackbirds are some instances that are pretty hard to ignore.  Out on Schoodic Point, enormous flocks of migrating Double-crested Cormorants are one of the most conspicuous indicators that something big is happening.  Fall migration is especially exciting since in addition to the adult birds that made the migration north in the spring, there are often young birds migrating southwards with them on the first of what will hopefully be many migrations.  

Photo by Earl Johnson



The fall season at Acadia: when birds, fruit, and insects join together in a splendor of biodiversity


The fall season is a busy one on the coast of Maine. Birds are migrating through on their way south to warmer climes, many shrubs are producing fruit so that their seed is dispersed prior to winter, and insect populations have their last opportunities to be active before it gets too cold. Precisely when these activities are occurring – and how they are related to each other – is not well known.

More importantly, the timing of these iconic moments of autumn might be in the middle of changing due to climate change, which means the potential disruption of key ecological processes, such as the consumption of fruit and insects by birds.

Along with colleagues from Acadia and Schoodic Institute, and citizen scientists from the Earthwatch Institute, Dr. Richard Feldman, Schoodic Institute Adjunct Professor has been documenting the unfolding of fall on the Schoodic Peninsula. In this presentation, he will use the data that has been collected to describe how birds, fruit, and insects interact with each other and how that changes through fall and across the years. Dr. Feldman will also discuss the importance of citizen scientists to work and similar projects across the country, and how to improve the flow of data between professional and citizen scientists.

Schoodic Institute invites the public to this presentation, Tuesday, October 23, 2018, at 7:00 PM in Moore Auditorium on the Institute campus. No registration is required.







Schoodic Institute New Board Chair and Member Announcement


Schoodic Institute is pleased to announce the appointment of a new board chair and a new member to its board of directors. Current board member Dr. David Ellwood has been named Schoodic Institute Board Chair replacing retiring board chair Alan Goldstein. David Manski has been appointed to the board and will serve as Vice Chair.

David Ellwood

“I am deeply honored to be chairing this terrific board and working with our exciting new CEO, Don Kent.  Schoodic Institute has a vital and exciting mission at the intersection of science, education, and conservation,” said Ellwood.  “Our location within and close collaboration with Acadia National Park offers an exceptional opportunity to learn and share at a time when our local natural environment is changing so very rapidly.   I look forward to building upon the years of wise and committed leadership of my predecessor, Alan Goldstein.”

Dr. Ellwood grew up in Minnesota and later attended Harvard University where he earned both his undergraduate degree and Ph.D. Dr. Ellwood is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Science, a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, and a Senior Research Affiliate of the National Poverty Center at University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. Over the years, Dr. Ellwood has become one of the country’s foremost scholars on poverty and welfare. For his work, Dr. Ellwood has been the recipient of numerous prestigious awards, such as the Morris and Edna Zale Award for Outstanding Distinction in Scholarship and Public Service among others. Currently, Dr. Ellwood is the Isabelle and Scott Black Professor of Political Economy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University where he has also served as Dean. Dr. Ellwood and his wife Marilyn have been married for over 25 years and enjoy hiking, sea kayaking, and most forms of outdoor recreation.


David Manski


David Manski, was former Chief of Natural Resources and Cultural Heritage at Acadia National Park for the final 20 years of a 35-year National Park Service career. During his tenure at Acadia, he was instrumental in helping to establish the Schoodic Institute as a National Park Service research and learning center.

David is an expert in conservation and natural resource management. He received the U.S. Department of the Interior Meritorious Service Award and the NPS Director’s Award for Natural Resource Management. David has worked extensively on international conservation issues, both during his career and following retirement in 2014. These technical assistance and consulting assignments have taken him to Oman (where in 2017, he served as a Nature Reserve Expert with their Ministry of Environment & Climate Affairs), Tanzania, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Bangladesh, China, Mozambique, and Timor- Leste. In 2013-2014, he was a Fulbright-Nehru Environmental Leadership Program Scholar looking at Protected Area management in India. In addition, he hosted/organized conservation study tours and meetings in the US and abroad for environmental professionals from the Middle East, in affiliation with the Quebec Labrador Foundation.

David has undergraduate and graduate degrees in wildlife ecology from the University of Arizona and Texas A&M University. He is a certified wildlife biologist, a research associate at College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, and a Commission Member of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas. He resides in Bar Harbor, Maine.

Schoodic Institute welcomes Ellwood and Manski to their new roles. Their depth of knowledge and expertise in the fields of public policy, education, and science will help the Institute in its mission to pursue collaborative solutions to critical environmental challenges through discovery and learning.




Become a SCS Research Fellow! Request for Proposals Opens Soon.

The partners of the Second Century Stewardship: Science for America’s National Parks announce the availability of Research Fellowships to support research in Acadia National Park. The selected Research Fellows will contribute to strengthening and broadening public understanding of the importance of science for parks and society.

Second Century  Stewardship (SCS) was founded in 2016 by Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park, the National Park Service (NPS), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and the David Shaw Family Foundation. SCS seeks to advance conservation and ecosystem science and support stewardship of park resources. 

The RFP can be found HERE. 

The application portal on the website will open on September 17, 2018.


Proposals must be submitted by midnight eastern U.S. time on October 26, 2018.

A webinar overview of Second Century Stewardship, the Research Fellowship, the application process, and park research priorities will be held on Monday September 17, at 1:30 p.m. Eastern Time. Please register HERE.