May 29, 2020
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‘Keeping Acadia Healthy With New Science’ to be topic of MDI Science Café

Community Author: Stefanie Matteson
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MDI Biological Laboratory | Contributed
MDI Biological Laboratory | Contributed

BAR HARBOR — National parks across the country are suffering the negative effects of climate change, air pollution, increased visitation and other environmental stressors, but if there is one national park that could be said to be bearing the brunt of these changes, it is Acadia.

In order to manage the unprecedented pace of environmental change, the park is increasingly relying on science to identify how to best study, mitigate and adapt in the present and over the long term, as well as to advance basic scientific knowledge and develop an understanding of natural history and human-natural systems.

The role played by science in charting the course of Acadia National Park’s future will be the subject of next MDI Science Cafe will be held 5 p.m. Monday, Aug. 26, at 159 Old Bar Harbor Road, with the talk, “Keeping Acadia Healthy With New Science.”

The presentation, entitled “Keeping Acadia Healthy With New Science” will be delivered by Abraham J. Miller-Rushing, Ph.D., science coordinator for Acadia National Park, and Rebecca Cole-Will, the park’s chief of resource management.

The park is facing a triple environmental threat, Miller-Rushing and Cole-Will said. Global warming is threatening plant and marine life, acid rain from air pollution carried on the prevailing westerlies from industrialized states to the south and west is threatening the boreal forest and increased visitation is stressing the park’s resources.

“Acadia is one of the few national parks that has science as part of its reason for existing,” Miller-Rushing said. “Though the park had moved away from that part of its history, the partnership with the Schoodic Institute has allowed us to again put science front and center in making informed decisions about how the park can effectively forecast and adapt to the challenges posed by a rapidly changing environment.”

Because the Schoodic Institute manages the largest of the 18 research learning centers in the U.S. National Park Service, the reach of science and education at Acadia extends throughout the park service, said Cole-Will.

Miller-Rushing and Cole-Will will talk about some of the many science projects the park is engaged in, including studies of deadly white-nose syndrome in bats and of tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease and anaplasmosis, as well as efforts to restore native plants on the summit of Cadillac Mountain. They will also discuss examples of how they are working with local communities on conservation initiatives — for instance, with the Wabanaki nation on the sustainable harvesting of sweetgrass, which is used in native American basketmaking and for ceremonial purposes.

Miller-Rushing is a phenologist — a scientist who studies seasonal changes over time. His work focuses on Acadia, but also, through the Schoodic Institute in Winter Harbor, which is part of Acadia, the 13 National Park Service units in the Northeast Temperate Network. The role of the network is to help increase the capacity of these park service units to understand the health of their biological communities, waters and other natural resources through long-term monitoring and periodic inventories.

In Miller-Rushing’s opinion, the most effective tool the park can take to mitigate the most damaging aspects of environmental change and to protect and preserve a resilient, dynamic and vibrant ecosystem is to enlist public support by telling the story of what is happening. He holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from Grinnell College and a doctorate in ecology, behavior and evolution from Boston University.

Cole-Will has done archaeological research in Maine and the Canadian Arctic and is a former curator at the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor, which is dedicated to the history and cultures of Maine’s native Americans. She holds a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of Maine and a master’s degree in anthropology from the University of Alberta.

MDI Science Cafés are offered in fulfillment of the institution’s mission to promote scientific literacy and increase public engagement with science. The popular events offer a chance to hear directly from speakers about trends in science. Short presentations delivered in everyday language are followed by lively, informal discussion.

For more information, please visit or call 207-288-3147.

About the MDI Biological Laboratory 

We are pioneering new approaches to regenerative medicine focused on developing drugs that slow age-related degenerative diseases and activate our natural ability to heal. Our unique approach has identified potential therapies that could revolutionize the treatment of heart disease, muscular dystrophy and more. Through the Maine Center for Biomedical Innovation, we are preparing students for 21st century careers and equipping entrepreneurs with the knowledge, skills and resources needed to turn discoveries into applications that improve human health and well-being. For more information, please visit