ACADIA NAT’L 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 National Park Foundation.
The new awards will support research that will inform management of land, water, wildlife and cultural resources in Acadia, as well as supporting public engagement with park science.
The 2021 Second Century Stewardship Fellows are Melina Giakoumis, doctoral candidate at City University of New York; Caitlin Littlefield, research assistant professor in the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Vermont; and Christina Murphy, assistant unit leader of the USGS Maine Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at the University of Maine.
Like many national parks, Acadia is experiencing rapid changes including warming temperatures, shifts in plant and animal populations, rising sea levels and altered weather patterns. These changes are not fully understood, challenging the National Park Service to manage and protect both natural and cultural resources.
“We need new science to help us better understand these complex changes and how we can effectively respond, so that future generations can enjoy and be inspired by Acadia and other national parks. These fellows will help us do that,” said Kevin Schneider, superintendent of Acadia National Park.
The new awards, made possible in part by a grant from the National Park Foundation through a donation from the David Evans Shaw Family Foundation, increase the total number of Second Century Stewardship fellowships awarded since 2016 to 15.
Giakoumis intends to study Asterias sea stars, an important animal in coastal food webs that may show how life in the intertidal zone is changing in response to warming temperatures, changing ocean chemistry and rising sea levels. Giakoumis will use several methods, including revisiting a 1979 study on sea star abundance in Acadia, Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area and Cape Cod National Seashore, to understand population changes over time and track outbreaks of Sea Star Wasting Disease.
Littlefield’s research focuses on the unique interface where coastal spruce-fir forests meet salt marshes. Managers of coastal lands generally want to enable salt marshes to migrate inland as sea levels rise, because marshes filter water and provide important habitat, among many other functions. In some areas, salt marshes may encroach on coastal spruce-fir forests, which are also vulnerable to rising temperatures and are at the southern edge of their range in Acadia.
According to Acadia National Park plant ecologist Jesse Wheeler, there is a wide range of important work taking place in salt marshes in and around the park that could be informed by Littlefield’s research.
Murphy is evaluating the impact of invasive fishes in lakes of Acadia National Park. Building on an extensive archive of data, Murphy will focus on the role of non-native fish in aquatic food webs, and how they may influence exposure of other wildlife to mercury and similar contaminants in park ecosystems.
The Second Century Stewardship approach to research, science communication and citizen science has been integrated with the efforts of more than 50 units and programs of the National Park System. To learn more, visit scsparkscience.org.