DV-08-011 A drift card study of Saco Bay: validation of a numerical model

Charles Tilburg
Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Physics

University of New England
11 Hills Beach Road
Biddeford, ME 04005
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University of New England researcher Charles Tilburg worked with eighth graders at Biddeford Middle School to map the fate of the freshwater plume out of the Saco River, the fourth largest river in Maine. They released biodegradable drifters (oranges!) at the mouth of the Saco River during ebb tide and then tracked each orange by collecting information on its location, date when it was found, its number, and condition. Oranges were labeled with a number corresponding to each deployment (1-5) and with a Web site address where information could be entered and then downloaded and displayed using Geographic Information System.

As expected, the majority of oranges were found in the vicinity of the Saco River mouth. However, oranges were found as far north as Phippsburg, Maine, and as far south as Gloucester, Massachusetts. By examining the relationship between the physical mechanisms of river discharge and wind forcing, and the observed orange trajectories, the research team discovered that wind direction affects the fate of the orange. This suggests that the direction of the winds can influence the distribution of the river and carry its plume into the Western Maine Coastal Current.

Total: $1,780

Students ‘huck’ oranges for science. WLBZ2/WCSH6 News Center (NBC), October 9, 2008.

Physics professor, students hope river study bears fruit. Portland Press Herald October 10, 2008.

BMS students deploy oranges on scientific mission. York County Journal-Tribune, October 10, 2008.