BAR HARBOR — The dramatic landscape of Newfoundland and the challenges and rewards of focusing on the region academically will be the subjects of College of the Atlantic’s Human Ecology Forum on Tuesday, Oct. 20, at 4:10 p.m. in the McCormick Lecture Hall.
Professor Sean Todd and scholar Natalie Springuel will present “A Marvelous, Terrible Place: The Human Ecology of Newfoundland,” which covers the college’s history of teaching in the region and highlights several student projects that have been created in the class that Todd and Springuel co-teach every few years with economics professor Davis Taylor.
“It’s an astonishing class,” Todd says. “You load eight or so students into a van and drive 3,000 miles to this incredibly dramatic place. And we attack it from every direction. It’s the kind of class that could really only grow out of a trans-disciplinary environment like the one we have at COA.”
Newfoundland has a deep and colorful history, with towns such as Joe Batt’s Arm, Blow Me Down and Mistaken Point. The area was the fishing capital of the world for 400 years, but all that changed in the early 1990s when a severe drop in stocks precipitated a ban on cod fishing. The ensuing economic and sociological crisis, the rebound into ecotourism and the cultural upheaval that followed all have been considered by students studying the region as part of the class, Todd says.
“It just becomes a really interesting thing, where you essentially pick up a culture and say, ‘You can’t go in that direction anymore. You have to do this instead,’” Todd says. “And what that means to a people, what that does to them psychologically, is a rich area for study.”
Todd is the Steven K. Katona chair in marine sciences, associate dean of graduate studies and director of Allied Whale at College of the Atlantic. Springuel is a Coastal Community Development Extension associate with Maine Sea Grant, the coordinator of the Downeast Fisheries Trail and a founder of the National Working Waterfront Network.
The Human Ecology Forum is a weekly speaker series based on the work of the academic community, which also draws on artists, poets, political and religious leaders from around the world. The forum is open to the public and meets Tuesdays at 4:10 p.m. during the school term in the McCormick Lecture Hall.