The $425,000 grant from Jacomien and Forrest E. Mars, Jr. will be used to update Mount Desert Rock
BAR HARBOR, ME – College of the Atlantic (COA) has received a $425,000 grant from Jacomien and Forrest E. Mars, Jr. as funding for major renovations to one of the college’s field research stations, Mount Desert Rock (MDR), following damage caused by several hurricanes and winter storms. The updates will return this station to full operational capacity and will allow COA to continue to provide an excellent gateway for students and faculty pursuing careers in marine biology, oceanography, policy, and ocean sciences.
“Jacomien and Forrest’s gift is just remarkable and wonderfully generous,” said Dr. Sean Todd, COA’s Steven K. Katona Chair in Marine Studies. “This will make an enormous impact including increasing research opportunities, expanding usage of the facilities, lengthening the season, and of course greatly improve the opportunities for the students we teach. MDR has iconic value to everyone who works and sails and lives in this area, but especially to us at the college. It’s an historic landmark that has had a light keeper there before the Civil War. Cruising yachts, fishing boats, cruise ship, and tankers have a romantic attachment to this lonely, haunting, beautiful outpost in the Gulf of Maine. We are so grateful to the Mars family.”
Forrest E. Mars, Jr. is the grandson of Franklin Mars, who founded the immense Mars Company that includes various brands of confectionery and other consumer items. Dr. Todd first met members of the Mars family while working as a naturalist and researcher down in the Antarctic: both Forrest and Jacomien Mars share a profound love for the southern continent.
MDR is a lighthouse island situated 25 miles offshore of the COA campus, and it is the furthest offshore island along the eastern coast of the United States. It is a treeless, granite outcrop of ledges approximately 3.5 acres in size with a maximum elevation of 17 feet above sea level. The location and size of the island makes it vulnerable to hurricanes and winter storms. Storm damage to its building infrastructure has severely hindered the station’s programmatic activity, and lack of funding has led to a schedule of deferred maintenance, which is further degrading the facilities. Repairs to MDR’s facilities will vastly improve the college’s ability to use the island as an educational and important research platform.
The Mars grant will aid in renovating four major components of the island:
1. The ramp – because MDR’s coast is treacherous, getting onto the island is only possible via a boat ramp, which sees the most weather and erosion.
2. Boathouse – Hurricanes Bill and Nemo swept away what used to be the island’s boathouse. A full working boathouse would allow the college to maintain its boats in a weatherproof environment, offer hauling facilities to bring supplies onto the island, among other things.
3. Generator shed/classroom – Hurricane Bill partially destroyed this structure, which would be used as a workshop and depot for power/life support systems, as well as a classroom.
4. Lightkeeper’s house – the entire first floor was destroyed by Hurricane Bill’s penetrating 30-foot wave damage. Repairs have been made over the years to update the main living and dormitory spaces, kitchen, common room, laboratory/classroom, shower-room, workroom, outhouse facility, and a cellar that contains two cisterns for water collection.
“COA has been conducting longitudinal studies from MDR since 1974,” said Todd. “On this island, the college provides a unique blend of important marine conservation-oriented applied research and experiential educational opportunities both for its own students, as well as a number of high school and teacher education programs. Students go on to do internships, research, and graduate work from the Arctic to the Antarctic, on every continent, and in the oceans and seas around the globe.”
About College of the Atlantic
College of the Atlantic was founded in 1969 on the premise that education should go beyond understanding the world as it is, to enabling students to actively shape its future. A leader in experiential education and environmental stewardship, COA has pioneered a distinctive interdisciplinary approach to learning—human ecology—that develops the kinds of creative thinkers and doers needed by all sectors of society in addressing the compelling and growing needs of our world. For more information, visit www.coa.edu.