ACADIA NAT’L PARK — Three University of Maine scientists have been awarded fellowships to conduct research in the park as part of Second Century Stewardship, an initiative of Acadia, the National Park Service, Schoodic Institute and the National Park Foundation.
The three are Rachel Fowler, laboratory coordinator with the UMaine School of Biology and Ecology; Bonnie Newsom, assistant professor of anthropology; and Jay Wason, assistant professor of forest ecosystem physiology.
Fowler has been monitoring water quality at Jordan Pond as an aquatic scientist with Friends of Acadia since 2016. She aims to develop a system for early detection of blooms of cyanobacteria, a kind of algae that thrive in warm, nutrient-rich waters and can be toxic to people and animals. Early detection can help park staff “anticipate water quality problems, communicate potential risk in a timely manner and protect visitor safety and the ecological integrity of Acadia’s lakes,” according to Acadia biologist Bill Gawley.
Newsom will analyze existing archaeological collections from shell midden sites in Acadia to chronicle past occupation and to generate baseline data for future studies of indigenous peoples and their connections to the Acadia region. She is a member of the Penobscot Nation.
“Dr. Newsom’s approach to integrate archeological data with indigenous perspectives to interpret the past is ground-breaking research,” said Rebecca Cole-Will, Acadia’s chief of resource management. “As park service mangers, we are responsible for preserving and protecting significant cultural resources.”
Very little is known about how coastal spruce-fir forests in Acadia change as they age and how sensitive they are to shifts in climate. Wason plans to replicate historical surveys of Acadia’s forests to see how they and the climate have changed over the past 60 years, with the goal of informing projections of how they might change in the next 60 years.
“We need to know if coast spruce and fir have a future here and, [if so] what that future looks like,” said Jesse Wheeler, vegetation biologist at Acadia.
Schoodic Institute President and CEO Nick Fisichelli said, “We know environmental conditions are changing rapidly in Acadia. The Second Century Stewardship approach is providing the research, communication and engagement needed to apply science to these critical challenges.”
This year’s three research fellows were chosen from several dozen applicants from nine states.