Northeastern Coastal Station Alliance (NeSCA); Small field stations, unite!

NOTE: This blog was written by Hannah Webber, the Research and Education Projects Manager for Schoodic Institute, working on a Sea Grant-funded project with Caitlin Cleaver of the Hurricane Island Foundation.

From the tip of Cape Cod to Isles of Shoals to Bon Portage Island in Nova Scotia biological and marine science field stations dot the coast of the Gulf of Maine. These may be weather-beaten seasonal rustic facilities, state-of-the-art, or something in between but all are dedicated to understanding our little patch of the Earth and the rapid change it is experiencing.

This past summer ten small field stations spanning the Gulf of Maine formed the Northeastern Coastal Station Alliance (NeCSA) as a way to collaboratively collect and share data in an effort to enhance public awareness of environmental change in the Gulf of Maine.

The idea for the alliance came from Laura Sewall (Bates College Coastal Center at Shortridge) and Caitlin Cleaver (Hurricane Island). Laura and Caitlin were thinking about the Integrated Sentinel Monitoring Network, gaps in that network, and were seeking to answer the question that pops up all the time from concerned citizens—“What can I do?”. It turned out that many people from other field stations were wondering the same thing and NeCSA was formed so the field stations could work together in a collaborative way.

In June of 2016, volunteers and scientists from these field stations headed into the intertidal with nuts and bolts, drills or epoxy, temperature loggers and data sheets, and deployed the loggers to collect hourly temperature data. By the end of the summer we had stories of slips and trips, wildlife sightings and, importantly, hourly intertidal temperature data from all ten sites. It was really cool to see a pattern in the data where the westerly-most stations were warmer than the mid-coast stations, which were warmer than the eastern stations. We hope the data from our pilot year, and years to come, will build a more robust picture of temperature change along the coast of the Gulf of Maine. The data can be used locally, or regionally, to understand patterns of change but might also be used in larger scale models of change in the whole Gulf.

One of the more memorable collections was on Mount Desert Rock when the field crew from College of the Atlantic had to wait for seals to clear off of the temperature collection site. That took a while!