Science for Everyone

College of the Atlantic

Visit to Great Duck

View of the keeper's house from the lighthouse.

View of the keeper's house from the lighthouse.

We are in the formative stages of building a field research station on Hurricane Island – an exciting, but also challenging time in figuring out the right scale for a station on an island in Penobscot Bay. During this process, I have found discussions with scientists who run field stations invaluable in guiding my thinking on the development of our station. On July 12, 2014, I had the opportunity to visit College of the Atlantic’s (COA) Alice Eno Field Research Station on Great Duck Island. COA, the State of Maine, the Nature Conservancy, and a private residence share the 220-acre island. We took COA’s research vessel, a 46’ West Mac, from COA’s campus in Bar Harbor out to the island. The facilities are modest and completely off the grid which is similar to Hurricane. I gained important insight into the appropriate scale of necessary infrastructure to support researchers for a period of time on an island.

Each summer, Dr. John Anderson, a COA faculty member, oversees a team of six to seven students that conducts research on Great Duck, often focusing on the breeding populations of Leach’s Storm Petrels and resident Herring and Black-backed Gulls that nest on the island each year. Through cooperative agreements, COA students can access the majority of the island to conduct research projects.

Great Duck and Hurricane have some interesting similarities and differences. Both were inhabited and used by humans in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; Hurricane supported a thriving quarry town while Great Duck had a lighthouse keeper’s family and a flock of sheep (for more on Great Duck's history, click here). Hurricane was subjected to a second period of human pressure from the 1960s to the mid-2000s. Once these inhabitants left their respective islands, vegetation was released from human pressures and regenerated. Spruce-fir forests now dominate both islands; however, Great Duck has a stand of similarly aged trees as saplings rarely survive due to grazing of introduced hare while on Hurricane, we have a number of young spruce trees and will potentially experience overcrowding issues. We do have a number of deer on Hurricane, but have not yet quantified their grazing effect on our vegetation. 

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