Schoodic Institute a true difference-maker

By Peter Collier

The brilliance of Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park is that its work matters to everyone; it truly has the power to change the world. A unique model of community collaboration, born in the wake of the Navy’s departure from Winter Harbor in 2002, the institute has at its core the mission of advancing ecosystem science and learning for all ages through its unique partnership with Acadia.

The impacts of this organization extend further. Thanks to the steady growth of its research and learning programs, the institute is now an economic engine for Downeast Maine, with over 51 local residents employed (23 year-round). The development of the Schoodic Woods Campground, the Schoodic Marine Center, the Citizen Science Association and the Downeast Conservation Network additionally bring sought-after sustainability and collaborative interest — and dollars — that benefit Winter Harbor and the Downeast region. The various research networks encompassing the University of Maine, College of the Atlantic, Colby College and dozens of other partner organizations (such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science, an international nonprofit and publisher of the journal Science) have invested significantly in our community because of the unique facilities and mission of Schoodic Institute. But it’s our local community — particularly the youth, our future — who stand to gain the most from the institute’s efforts.

Scientific fact: the contiguous United States is warming more rapidly than the world as a whole, and the fastest warming in America is occurring in the Northeast region. We are already crossing the 2 degrees Celsius threshold in some years and will be crossing it consistently within the next 5-10 years. For perspective, globally, temperature increases are expected to cross the 2 degrees Celsius threshold sometime between 2043 and 2055.

New species are arriving and thriving (European green crabs, Carcinus maenas). Other long appreciated species are suffering declines as a result (Soft shell clams, Mya arenaria). By committing to banding together as an educated community, and pursuing an objective, scientific process in attempting to learn more about such environmental changes, we can develop solutions while experiencing the deeper benefits of community growth and collaboration built around strategies and processes.

Mainers — and the millions of tourists who populate our region each lengthening summer — are inspired by fresh air, clean water and vibrant forests and aquatic life. At Schoodic Institute, the sustainability of those systems is front and center. For every child experiencing a curriculum-based, hands-on outdoor learning opportunity with an institute researcher or a park ranger — touching, feeling and engaging in the scientific process and learning to think critically about the world around them — the institute delivers a dose of sustainability to the rich natural heritage that, indeed, sustains us. The institute helps people not only witness environmental change, but develop methods that help to understand changes more deeply. This can begin the process of cultivating environmental stewards. Science, and the Downeast Maine economy (see the website of the Maine Clammers Association) suggests our planet — and this community — needs environmental stewards in an urgent way.

The Schoodic Institute, led by its commitment to community-building through outdoor learning and scientific research, is healing economic scars formed when the Navy vacated its post. Anchored by a uniquely resilient community and the support of the residents of Winter Harbor, the institute has never stopped growing, and continues to build a bridge toward a more sustainable, inspiring economic and ecological future. At a time when facts — across many different mediums, political and otherwise — have perhaps never been at such a premium, our local community has nurtured this special nonprofit dedicated to evidence-based thinking, fact finding and the scientific process. How essential!

As the future unfolds and the planet warms it will be necessary for us to develop creative solutions to improve opportunities for people to learn more about, and understand how to better prepare for, the rapid environmental changes to come. The ongoing effort to raise awareness about such a big issue is global, and continues to make progress; I think it’s fair to say the entire human race is slowly being called to attention. As someone who was born and raised in this area, and who has witnessed a lot of environmental change, I am moved to ask every day, “What are we doing to make a difference right now?”

In answer to that question, my hope is that you will visit today to learn about ways you can contribute to this work that matters to everyone in our local — and global — community.


Peter Collier is the advancement associate for Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park. He may be reached directly at [email protected]. On Aug. 17 at noon, the Institute presents “Finding Your Creative Voice” with professional photographer Colleen Miniuk-Sperry as part of the monthly Brown Bag Lunch program in Moore Auditorium (free, every third Thursday). At 7 p.m., the public is invited to a  free lecture at the Auditorium: “Turning Back the Clock on Ocean Declines” with Loren McClenachan of Colby College.

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