Fresh Water and Ocean Ecology Program

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.

Schoodic Institute is building partnerships with other institutions and universities studying fresh and salt water health along the Maine Coast. With a small core staff coordinating with partners and developing new information and experiences, Schoodic Institute provides a powerful platform for educating the public and Park visitors (roughly 2.8 million per year) about water resources and their proper care, management, and restoration.

The freshwater and ocean ecology program at Schoodic Institute has helped develop research collaborations such as the Dragonfly Mercury Project and Acadia Learning Snowpack project that have engaged thousands of participants in learning and studying watershed science.

Acadia Learning Snowpack:

WATCH: 2016 Video from teachers with the University of Maine‘s New England B-WET project, The Future of Four Seasons in Maine: a Scientist-Teacher-Student Partnership to investigate climate change in seasonally snow-covered watersheds.

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.”

Intertidal research and monitoring:

In the intertidal zone, Schoodic Institute is contributing to studies of ocean acidification and its impacts on shellfish and intertidal ecology, phenology (or the timing of seasonal events) for Ascophyllum (rockweed), green crabs, and zooplankton, and monitoring of harmful algal blooms.  These research projects often include participation by citizen scientists, including students and EarthWatch volunteers.

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.