WINTER HARBOR — Three scientists on fellowships will conduct research in Acadia National Park this year — with two focusing on climate change.
The researchers are Allyson Jackson, a doctoral student in the Fisheries and Wildlife Department at Oregon State University, Alessio Mortelliti, assistant professor in the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Conservation at the University of Maine, and Chris Nadeau, a doctoral student in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department at the University of Connecticut.
Mortelliti and Nadeau specialize in climate change research.
Fellows under the Second Century Stewardship program receive research support, housing at the Schoodic Institute and science communication training, and will add to the development of resources that will bring park science to classrooms across the country.
The program is an initiative of the National Park Service, Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island and on the Schoodic Peninsula and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
The research fellows will conduct research aimed at helping Acadia protect its resources, building the public’s appreciation for science and delving into critical issues facing national parks and society, such as climate change.
“The results of our field experiments will allow managers to predict how local forest communities might change in the coming years and thus allow them to take the appropriate actions in time,” Mortelliti said.
His lab, which focuses on the effects of land use change on mammals and birds, will look at the northward movement of plant species as temperatures increase.
Many plant species, he said, currently reach their northern limit just south of Acadia and are expected to shift northward into the park.
Mortelliti also will explore how rodents in Acadia play a role in which plant species successfully colonize the park.
He also will use replicated field experiments to gain insights into which tree species may expand northward successfully.
Nadeau uses modeling, field observation and experiments to predict where species are most vulnerable.
The goal is to determine how conservation groups can best mitigate the negative impacts of climate change on animal populations.
As a Second Century Stewardship Fellow, Nadeau will concentrate his studies on the hundreds of freshwater rock pools dotting Acadia’s Schoodic Point.
Although the pools are abundant, little is known about their biodiversity and how that mix may fare under the effects of climate change.
“Understanding how biodiversity responds to climate change in freshwater rock pools could provide critical information about potential patterns of biodiversity change both locally and globally,” Nadeau said.
Jackson, the third fellow, will work at enlisting the participation of some of the park’s more than 3 million visitors each year.
Citizen scientists will be asked to collect data on birds and aquatic insects for Jackson’s project, which seeks to quantify how contaminants such as mercury move through the food chain from aquatic insects to the riparian birds that feed upon them.
Jackson said documenting and understanding resources that travel from aquatic to terrestrial ecosystems is now critical as scientists manage for resilient ecosystems in the second century of stewardship at Acadia.
The first fellow appointed under the program, Abbey Paulson, continues to conduct her research for Acadia.
Paulson is using environmental DNA to increase understanding of patterns of biodiversity in Acadia.
She also is documenting a new baseline for monitoring future change.