Island Updates

An Update from the Executive Director

Snow, finally!  Crossing the bay on the ferry a December morning, for the first time in a long while I couldn’t see Hurricane.  Driving snow and wind-whipped seas, not to mention ice glazed windows and salt spray, obliterated the view south to the Island. Of course, I knew it was there and buttoned up for the winter, no matter how hidden from sight.  Sam and I were just out there a week before to check on the solar batteries and make sure raccoons and mink hadn’t infiltrated the buildings. Since then, we made a trip out as a staff to reconnect with the Island and with each other and see how she’s been fairing the winter…so far, so good!!

The Island is in great shape, resting quietly after a long, active and successful season of programs and science research. Looking back in 2015, more than 800 people of all ages participated in programs, work, and activities on the island, including upwards of 450 middle, high school, and college students in courses ranging from a day to more than a week. Students came from as far away as Northeast High School in Philadelphia and as near as our neighboring island of Vinalhaven, participating in research that we are conducting and creating independent research projects of their own.  Twenty six teachers and administrators from Maine and New Hampshire school districts came for our 2nd annual School Leaders Retreat, and College groups from Bowdoin, Colby, Bates, UMO and the University of Vermont spent time on Hurricane observing, gathering data, and exploring possibilities for research and collaboration.  We hosted over 80 people for a visit from the Vinalhaven Land Trust and 15 adults earned advanced emergency medical certification in courses taught by Wilderness First Responder instructors. It has been a busy, energizing, productive, and exciting year for our programs on the Island!

Looking ahead to 2016, we already have contracts for next year and even a few individual enrollments are on the books, putting us way ahead of previous years at this time – a sure sign of the growing exposure and enthusiasm for our programs.  We aim to double our program revenue in 2016.  Again, we offer a wide range of school programs including middle school, high school, college, and even some adult programs, and have a diverse make-up of participating private and public schools and colleges from Maine and beyond. Also, we’re continuing to contract with programs like Overland, Wilderness Medical Associates, and the Center for Environmental Living and Learning to keep building our diverse community on Hurricane. We’re welcoming Maine school administrators and teachers for our 3rd annual Learning Retreat for School Leaders and we are again offering Summer Science open enrollment programs for individual middle and high school students in Marine Biology, Island Ecology, and Sustainability and adult education and teacher continuing education programs in Bird Banding and Historic Archaeology. You can find more info about all of these (and register!) by clicking here.

As always, we continue to move forward with our collaborative science and research, on and off Hurricane. Our Science and Research Director, Caitlin Cleaver, successfully completed the third year of the Collaborative Scallop Research Project. Our 2015 Scallop intern, Bailey Moritz of Bowdoin College, counted more than 17,772 juvenile scallops last summer! We received a grant from UMaine EPSCoR for aquaculture education and worked with students from Deer Isle Stonington High School to grow their own kelp in the classroom and then deployed it to grow at our newly-established aquaculture site off the north end of Hurricane. We partnered with the Rozalia Project this summer to act as a base for their “Marine Debris Museum,” which consisted of all of the trash they collected at sea and from island and coastal shorelines.  At the end of the summer, it was all taken ashore and recycled into fuel and clothing. In partnership with Bates College, we received a National Science Foundation grant, which we were awarded to develop partnerships between small field stations in the Gulf of Maine in order to implement shared research and training goals. All of these efforts continue to move us forward as a collaborative partner and leader in research in the Gulf of Maine and Penobscot Bay!

Throughout the Hurricane season from April to November, work was done on our solar and fresh water systems, the showers and composting toilets, and the living accommodations for both students and staff.  Our gardens were more established and productive than in previous years, supplying fresh vegetables for meals in the galley.  Solar energy for electricity was more reliable and continuous, almost eliminating the need for our small back-up generator.  The outdoor brick oven was completed allowing for delicious wood-fire baked breads and pizza to be enjoyed by all.

After the student season ended in mid-October, Sam and Oakley began a clearing project, taking down trees that threatened the galley end of the Mess Hall (Countway Building) and opening up the old bank foundation with its new brick oven. The slash pile at the south end has grown larger over the past months of clearing and demolition and will be burned this winter. Oakley moved the carved granite cornice honoring Mike “Strats” Stratton to higher ground after winter seas had tipped it and damaged its base.

A number of significant projects remain with work planned on some of the cabins, the Weiler-Lewis Boathouse roof, Phase 2 of the Shower House, the solar and electrical systems, and the Mess Hall.  We need to put a new energy-efficient engine in 5thGeneration, our Banks Cove work boat, upgrade our communications systems, and make much-needed improvements to our fresh water pumping capability.  Another priority is mattresses for the cabins and tents, and furniture for gathering and meeting spaces in all of our buildings. 

Valley Cove, too, is a central piece of our Master Plan for the island that is awaiting attention and will some day be the location of our marine research station and dive locker.  It is a wonderful site with the best landing and anchorage potential on the island, even though the pier and building need significant updating and renovation to make that a reality. We are already envisioning the features and layout of the new facility and I am looking forward to seeing the old Bosun's Locker from the Outward Bound days restored to its former glory. Work on Valley Cove is still a future endeavor but one that is slowly gaining more traction and planning and you will certainly hear about it in future Island Updates.

Hurricane Island is entering a new and critically important era in its existence.  At a time when climate change is challenging us all, science literacy in this country is woefully inadequate and in decline.  Hurricane stands at the confluence of the Penobscot River watershed and the Gulf of Maine – the so-called Gulf of Maine Gyre – perfectly positioned for the monitoring and study of ocean and atmospheric warming, acidification, sea level rise, and species changes and adaptation. We have many goals…to reverse the decline in science literacy and participation in science classes; to engage and excite students in science at all levels including field monitoring and research, college majors, careers in science, and citizen science; to inspire participants to be the next generation of environmental stewards and active advocates for the environment; to be a collaborator and leader in the network of field research stations in the Gulf of Maine; to be the change we want to see in the world, and to make a positive difference for our future.  We want people to know about us and our important work, we want students of all ages to come to Hurricane and participate in our programs, and we want people to visit Hurricane to see and be inspired by our community and what we’re doing to change the world for the better. 

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