Maine businessman David E. Shaw announced a $1 million gift to Acadia at Science Day at Sieur de Monts Spring on Saturday. ISLANDER PHOTO BY LIZ GRAVES

$1 million will aid science at Acadia

ACADIA NAT’L PARK — Maine entrepreneur David E. Shaw announced Saturday that he and his children plan to give $1 million to a new initiative to promote and engage science in America’s National Parks.

The Second Century Stewardship initiative will support collaborative programs between the National Park Service, the Schoodic Institute, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and other partner institutions.

The announcement was made as part of the park Science Day celebration at Sieur de Monts in Acadia. The event also included hands-on science education stations led by rangers and ribbon-cutting ceremonies for the new climate science exhibits at the Nature Center and for Acadia’s new fleet of eight electric and propane-powered vehicles.

“Behind that beautiful vista,” Shaw said, “there’s another dimension of beauty – the beauty of a deeper scientific understanding of the way things work.”

He said the new initiative will support science in Acadia in three ways: funding research, promoting policies for park resource management and supporting science education in the parks.

National parks are “great places for recreating but also for science,” Acadia Superintendent Kevin Schneider said. Parks host scientific research, rangers teach and communicate science to the millions of visitors they meet, and science informs park management decisions.

Friends of Acadia President David MacDonald and Centennial Committee Chair Jack Russell noted that Sieur de Monts has been the site of many important gatherings in Acadia’s first 100 years.

Mount Desert Island always has inspired “reflection on the nature of nature,” Russell said, and the park’s founders would be pleased about the plan to support scientific endeavors here.

Celebrations of the centennial of Acadia and the National Park Service are an occasion to look ahead, MacDonald said, and to study and discuss the societal and environmental challenges to the future of the parks.

“How will we meet our mission to leave resources unimpaired?” Acadia resource management Chief Rebecca Cole-Will said. “We manage for change, but parks are places that we protect forever.”

The park service “has really mastered” that tension between preservation and accessibility, Rush D. Holt, chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and executive publisher of the Science family of journals, said.

Science is not a body of knowledge to be mastered, Holt said. “Science has more to do with asking, ‘How do we know?’ It’s about what we don’t know, and asking, ‘How can we know what we don’t know?’

“Thinking like a scientist, having a custodial attitude toward the evidence – that strikes me as a traditionally American trait, and one that seems to be eroding,” he said. “Thinking like a scientist helps you avoid fooling yourself or being fooled by charlatans or even politicians. That’s a pretty big gift.”

The new climate science exhibit at the Nature Center was a collaborative effort of Acadia interpretation staff, College of the Atlantic students and faculty, a community advisory panel and other partners. The exhibit is designed to be updated easily to keep up with new research, Acadia interpretation Chief Lynne Dominy said.

Mike Kelly of Northern Arizona University (NAU) served as lead designer for the exhibit. He helped coordinate work from students at COA, NAU and Highlands University in New Mexico.

“The students were challenged with how to communicate complex issues, how to find entry points that would be relatable,” COA design Professor Dru Colbert said.

Students developed materials for the exhibit as part of National Park Service Practicum and Communicating Science classes with Professors Colbert, Steve Ressel and Anne Kozak.

Shaw also announced the premiere of his new feature-length film, “Second Century Stewardship: Science beyond the Scenery in Acadia National Park.” It explores several ways people interact with science in and around Acadia: students and teachers participate in research on insect, bird and fish species while park management studies traffic on the Cadillac Summit Road to address congestion and battles invasive species. The film was screened Saturday night in the amphitheaters at the Blackwoods, Seawall and Schoodic Woods campgrounds, and at the Criterion Theatre in Bar Harbor.

Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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