SULLIVAN — Sumner Memorial High School students will present a poster session Thursday, May 4, on what they have learned exploring forests and intertidal zones in Downeast Maine.
The research was conducted with the Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park, whose staff helped instruct the students in how to ask research questions, collect samples and analyze their own data.
Some students worked at sites in the Frenchman Bay Conservancy’s Baker Hill Preserve with a focus on a forest cap where trees fell years ago, creating an opening in the forest canopy.
“Trees are long-lived and thus forests can seem to be static, unchanging places,” said Nick Fisichelli, director of forest ecology at Schoodic. “However, forests do change and looking in the right places at the right times can yield insights into forest dynamics.”
He said the work the students in Sumner’s Pathways program conducted with him will provide clues to how local forests may look in the future.
The remainder of the students worked at Frazer Point and Arey Cove on the Schoodic Peninsula, collecting and looking at microscopic animals that live on rockweed.
Hannah Webber, intertidal specialist at Schoodic, said the intertidal zone in general and the rockweed zone in particular is a critical habitat for a number of commercially important animals.
“By studying changes in prey species for those larger animals we’re filling in the rockweed food web picture,” Webber said.
Bill Zoellick, director of education research at the institute, said the students’ work is helping the institute with long term ecologic research.
“It is also enabling us to explore new ways of connecting our work to the communities where we live that go beyond just talking about research,” he said. “Here the students have been contributors and collaborators on the research team.”
The project was supported by the Davis Family Foundation, the Morton Kelly Charitable Trust and the Maine Timberlands Charitable Trust.