The Wrack: climate change

blog of the wells reserve & laudholm trust

Associated People Caryn Beiter

Teachers on the Estuary Workshop (July 10-12, 2017)


We are putting teachers on the estuary again this summer by offering a free workshop that will give educators data-driven climate change activities to bring back to their classes. The workshop will train up to ten educators in reserve-style environmental monitoring, "coastal blue carbon" concepts, and ways to understand and address climate change.

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The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 2/19/2017, and Making It At Home's 2/16/2017 issue.

Snug fit

Image: Volunteer Cliff Babkirk from Sanford pops in a custom-made window insert at the Wells Reserve at Laudholm’s Visitor Center.


My family and I were some of the last visitors to wander through the Willowbrook Museum in Newfield before it permanently closed last fall. As we perused the houses, barns, and sheds filled with furniture and tools from the 19th century, I felt the vast landscape of time lying between then and now.

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The Rift

January 20, 2017 By Nik Charov Filed under Article Tags: climate changeglobal warmingicetwo worlds

NASA image of the Larsen C rift 11-2016The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 1/22/2017, and Making It At Home's 1/25/2017 issue.

It’s morning in Antarctica. It’s high summer in the Southern Hemisphere, and warmer ocean water and breezes have lifted the temperature on the Larsen C ice shelf to a balmy 32 degrees. Like a rifle shot, the ice occasionally gives off a pop that finds no place to echo across the flat, white, featureless plain.

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He who smelt it, dealt it

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 10/23/2016, and Making It At Home's 10/26/2016 issue.

It’s too early to tally the full damage from Hurricane Matthew, which earlier this month plowed up the Southeast U.S. coast from Florida to North Carolina. Working at the local Wells Reserve, a place that pays a lot of attention to coastal watershed issues, I watched closely as four research reserves in our national system of 28 took the brunt of the storm. Plus, I have a demonstrated interest in manure, so the following story caught my eye.

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About this Project

Sea-level rise and extreme weather events exacerbated by climate change impact Maine’s coastline and are anticipated to increase in frequency and strength. Beach-based businesses, a powerful economic engine for Maine, are generally little-prepared for storm surge and coastal flooding. Yet lessons learned from previous disasters underscore that the recovery of businesses is critical to the overall recovery of a region’s economy.


This project will adapt and transfer the Tourism Resilience Index, previously developed for the Gulf of Mexico by the Mississippi Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, to Southern Maine. The Wells Reserve will help coastal businesses in Kennebunkport and Kennebunk to assess their ability to maintain operations during and after a disaster. The Wells Reserve also will collaborate with business leaders, municipalities, and climate adaptation professionals to decrease the vulnerability of Maine’s beach-based business community to natural disasters.

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Rounding Second

August 21, 2016 By Nik Charov Filed under Article Tags: climate changetwo worlds

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 8/21/2016, and Making It At Home's 8/24/2016 issue.

August 21st is my 38th birthday. The odometer keeping track of my trips around the Sun just rolled over 22.2 billion miles. There’s still plenty of tread on the tires. I am beginning to notice a few twinges of maturity, though. Joint pains, hair loss, reflexive stubbornness, the irrepressible need to give advice – the signs of creeping codgerdom.

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Associated People Annie Cox

Ten years ago, New England was pummeled by strong winds and heavy rains as the “Mother’s Day Storm” of 2006 washed out bridges, flooded homes, and damaged businesses, especially along the coast of York County. Less than a year later, the Patriots’ Day Storm added insult to injury and, too soon after that, Superstorm Sandy struck southern Maine a glancing blow.

From Kittery to Cape Elizabeth, a low and relatively flat coastline places communities at risk during extreme weather events. And due to the changing climate, it’s likely that stronger storms will hit more often. Along the coast, their impact will only be worsened by the continuing rise of the sea.

Beach-based businesses, a powerful economic engine for Maine, are generally little prepared for storm surge and coastal flooding. Yet lessons learned from previous disasters underscore how important the recovery of businesses is to the overall recovery of a region’s economy.

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Spring Fever

March 20, 2016 By Nik Charov Filed under Article Tags: climate changemonitoringtwo worldsweather

Spring is dawning

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 3/20/2016, and Making It At Home's 3/23/2016 issue.

My wife and I and our two boys moved up to Maine full-time in July 2012. We felt like we’d arrived in the Garden of Eden. Lobsters were four bucks, the ocean was 73 degrees, and the outdoor season stretched well into November. It wasn’t the Maine I knew from my childhood (swimmable water!?), but who cared? It was awesome.

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Snow blowing past the big barn's double doors, February 5, 2015

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition of 1/24/16 and Making It At Home Thursday edition, 1/28/2016.

Always eager to start some new long-term monitoring project, I’m now keeping track of the number of conversations I have about the weather. I’m planning to henceforth keep tabs on with whom, when, and for how long we chatted. I’m already certain one thing will be constant: the changing weather will be discussed in only the most general, equivocal, unchanging terms. You and I will talk about the weather, my friends, but we will say nothing new.

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Santa visited the Wells Reserve at Laudholm this summer. One of these statements is false.

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 12/20/2015.

[Trigger warning: the following paragraph may contain troubling information for preteens]

Like many parents, my wife and I get a real kick out of the Santa thing. There’s something delicious about a full month of lying, straight-faced, to our eight-year-old and five-year-old. Usually we’re trying to dispel myths, convey science, explain the world, and correct pronunciation. Come Christmas season, we just start making @#$# up. The holidays are a wonderful vacation from reality, aren’t they?

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October 18, 2015 By Nik Charov Filed under Article Tags: climate changefoliagemonitoringmusictwo worlds

burning beech

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 10/18/2015.

Welcome to Southern Maine and “peak foliage.” Those blazing reds and oranges along the Turnpike and our back roads are a sight to behold. Of course, I’m talking about brake lights.

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Living on the Edge

September 19, 2015 By Nik Charov Filed under Article Tags: climate changecoastal watersforestgardentwo worlds

On the edge

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 9/20/2015, and Making It At Home newspaper.

To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. To a man at a coastal research center during Maine Coast Week, all the world’s a coast.

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Picture: Julio Cortez/APMantoloking, New Jersey, October 30, 2012.

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 8/30/2015. (Continued from Remembering Katrina, Part I.)

Ten years ago this week, Category 3 Hurricane Katrina left nearly 2,000 people dead, hundreds of communities uprooted, and more than $100 billion in damage along the Gulf Coast. Adding in Superstorm Sandy’s devastation in October 2012, just two events swallowed the equivalent of: five months of Medicare spending, or two years of the federal education budget, or four years’ worth of the Federal Highway Trust Fund, our national gasoline tax-funded infrastructure bank that is now running on empty. So much money, washed out to sea.

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the Lower Ninth Ward

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 8/23/2015.

Perhaps a butterfly flapped its wings in Hong Kong, or perhaps the gods who play dice with the sky rolled double sixes. Whatever the cause, the atmospheric disturbance that formed over the southeastern Bahamas on August 23, 2005, would go on to have massive effects.

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Getting Off My Horse High

August 9, 2015 By Nik Charov Filed under Article Tags: climate changetwo worlds

The great a-tractor

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 8/9/2015.

My car, a Volkswagen Jetta with a diesel engine, generates 140 horsepower. I sometimes imagine what it would be like to ride in a horse-drawn carriage down I-95 to my office at the Wells Reserve at Laudholm, towed by 140 horses. Using eight feet as the average length of a horse, and pairing the horses together, my anachronistic folk’s wagon would rumble along behind an equine train more than 560 feet long.

I wonder what our top speed would be.

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Associated People Jeremy Miller

Jeremy Miller holds daughter Camille and water testing instrument in the research lab.

Jeremy Miller embraces the long view. His projects depend on it. As lead technician for our system-wide monitoring program (SWMP), as state coordinator for monitoring marine invasives (MIMIC), and as lead scientist on the reserve’s larval fish study, Jeremy adds pieces to puzzles without predefined shape. He knows that patterns begin to emerge only after years of methodical, meticulous data collection.

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Fodder for pundits

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 6/21/2015.

As I stood in the kitchen of my New York apartment coming to grips with the news of my father’s sudden death, something spooky happened. One of my father’s favorite tunes, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” from the Monty Python film The Life of Brian, began playing. My father had been found dead only hours before, and now a clear reminder of him was spontaneously emanating from some luggage in the corner.

I assumed it was a cell phone ringtone, but standing there, in that most alone moment of my life, I had no explanation for why someone would be phoning a suitcase, or why “my father’s song” was suddenly playing.

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Mind the dip

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 5/24/2015.

The small bird my boys found in the backyard last weekend was olive green with an orange crown like a dirty hunter’s hat. It showed no signs of violence, but it was definitely dead. No rigor mortis, so it wasn’t a winter casualty emerged from the snow. …that’s as far as our “CSI: South Portland” investigation went before I got a shovel and buried the bird six inches under. My seven-year-old placed a cantaloupe-sized rock over the grave and we went on with our day.

It was only after going back inside that evening that I began to wonder what species of bird it had been.

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solar installation at Maine Audubon's Gilsland Farm

Photo: the new sun-tracking solar panels at Maine Audubon


The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 3/29/2015.

Around the time I turned six years old, a funny thing happened. Starting in 1984, each successive month was warmer than its 20th century global average. That doesn’t mean December 1985 was warmer than November 1985. It means December 1985 was warmer, around the world, than the average temperature in December from 1900-1985. So was January 1986. And so was February 1986.

And June 1992. March 1997. August 2004. February 2015.

For the past thirty years (and counting), each month has been warmer than its average. We may remember, year to year, locally colder Januarys or cooler Julys, but around the world, our collective thermometers have not seen a dip for 360 straight months. The odds of this happening randomly are, well, Powerball-esque.

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going, going, going...

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 2/22/2015.

I learned a new word this year. Subnivean, from the Latin for “under” (sub) and “snow” (nives). It’s the zone within and underneath the snowpack. It’s where we’ve all been living lately.

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Associated People Kristin Wilson

Group photo of 'blue carbon

WELLS, Maine, December 8, 2014 — Scientists from around New England met at the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve on December 5 for a workshop focused on “blue carbon” science and policy. For the first time, scientists from throughout the region gathered to share research results, identify gaps in knowledge, and plan future collaborations involving carbon in coastal habitats.

The term “blue carbon” refers to the ability of salt marshes, seagrass meadows, and mangrove forests to take up and store carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Coastal wetlands capture carbon and store it at rates even greater than rainforests.

“Carbon held naturally in coastal wetlands is not entering the atmosphere as a greenhouse gas, so these habitats have real potential to mitigate climate change,” said Dr. Kristin Wilson, Wells Reserve research director, who co-coordinated the workshop.

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The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 11/2/2014.

From reports, it sounds like this year’s midterm election is a doozy, money-wise: across the country, campaigns are spending record sums marketing their candidates and causes.  So I read, anyway: I do not watch broadcast TV, I have an ad blocker on my computer, and I only listen to satellite radio and MPBN. Voluntarily [and gratefully] deaf to the din from most of the marketing wars, I rarely hear about the latest advances in breakfast cereal, let alone the biannual election season onslaught.

About the only political advertising I do see are ads in newspapers (bless you, candidates, for feeding our starving print publishers), and outdoor campaign signs.

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Associated People Kristin Wilson

Our Native Ferns - Carboniferous Pteridophyta


The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 10/26/2014.

Three hundred and fifty million years ago, the supercontinent Pangaea floated where you sit today. It was a warm, wet world, bathed in oxygen and soupy seas. Just that geologic period’s name alone – Carboniferous, from the Latin for “coal bearing” – should be a clue that it was a time from which we get a lot of the fossil fuels we now use to power our society.

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Which side are you on?Figure 1: A chart of the scientific consensus on climate change (97% of scientists agree that humans are driving global warming), and how much attention the minority opinion seems to receive in the media. Or is it a graph of the amount of America's wealth controlled by the top 3% (54.5%), vs. the bottom 97%?


The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 10/5/2014.

Two weeks ago, my family and I were perched on the steps of the grand fountain in Columbus Circle, Manhattan, watching 300,000 people march past. They sang, they shouted, and they carried thousands of messages, all communicating one thing: world leaders, it’s time to do something about climate change. A week of action followed. Further protests spread around the world, corporations declared carbon reduction goals, and even presidents and prime ministers frankly spoke of “addressing the need to revise a framework for negotiation.”

That’s some progress, anyway.

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The Age of Climate Decision

September 26, 2014 By Suzanne Kahn Filed under Article Tags: climate change

Associated People Kate Reichert

"What an impact! Verifiable scientific information--not political lies! Excellent! A must see and hear program for ALL! Really relevant! Outstanding! Data rich and easily understood!" These are comments written on evaluation forms at the end of Dr. Paul Mayewski's Climate Stewards evening lecture in Mather Auditorium last week. Mayewski talkMayewski, the Director and Distinguished Professor of the Climate Change Institute at the University of Maine, took us on a "journey into climate," sharing results from research he and others have conducted over the past forty years in Antarctica and the Arctic. Did you miss the lecture? Don't fret! Kate filmed it and you can watch it in its entirety here.

Short on time? Below is a sampling of the many nuggets of information Mayewski shared:

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A Warming Planet

July 10, 2014 By Suzanne Kahn Filed under Article Tags: climate changesea level rise

Climate Reality Project's Allen Armstrong visited the Reserve last night to deliver an information-packed presentation for our Climate Stewards Lecture Series. Eight years after Al Gore's award-winning An Inconvenient Truth, Allen provided an updated version of the movie's slideshow. Among the many facts he shared:

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Gordon HamiltonDr. Gordon Hamilton of the University of Maine's Climate Change Institute presented his "Why the Arctic Matters" lecture on Wednesday evening, providing attendees with a first-hand account of his research findings on Greenland's ice sheets. He first explained that the Arctic is a system, connected to the rest of the world through its oceans. What happens in the Arctic affects life in the Gulf of Maine. His research findings are alarming.

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Associated People Michael Mahoney Annie Cox Chris Feurt Dana Cohen-Kaplan

Storm-damaged house in Saco, Maine, April 2007

About the Project

The Sandy Dialogues facilitated an exchange of expertise and experience between New Jersey and Maine that culminated in two Maine-based coastal hazard preparedness training workshops. Through this project, the Wells Reserve and its partners learned from New Jersey's Jacques Cousteau Reserve and its stakeholders about the use of decision-support systems, combined with the experience of responding to and recovering from a major storm event.

The Sandy Dialogues stemmed from the earlier Climate Games project in Wells and a sea-level-rise vulnerability assessment done for the New Jersey coast.

Project Period

March to November 2014

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Look, there's a scientist, doing science!

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 5/4/2014.

I am not a scientist, but working at the Wells Reserve at Laudholm, a coastal science research station, I get to meet many scientists from Maine and away. While it’s hard to understand them sometimes, they are all very decent [and underpaid] people. And they are all as astounded as I am that, as a recent Harris poll reveals, more than half the country does not believe them when they say climate change is real, that it is happening, and that it is man-made.

I’ve heard it said that science “is the body of knowledge that we can all agree on.” Or at least, it's what the vast majority of us can agree on. When did "vast majority" become less than 50%? Sure, there will always be people who don’t trust anything but their own eyes, but the rest of us have to, at some point, make a leap of faith and trust science even if we don’t understand it, right? And we’re better off when we do: without science, we wouldn’t have electricity in our homes, cars to drive, TV to watch, or even drinking water.

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Associated People Jeremy Miller

Best way to deal with invasive green crab


The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune and Making It At Home Sunday editions, 3/16/2014.

In my last column (Sunday 3/2), I wrote about invasive plants and bugs, and how my bringing firewood into Maine from away could be biting off more than I could chew. This week, I’m still thinking about what’s eating our wood. Specifically, the wooden frame around the eave of my house.

I’m pretty sure it’s a starling, and if it is, then I’m also giving up Shakespeare for Lent.

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Associated People Tin Smith


Develop a disaster response plan for the Wells Reserve and surrounding watersheds that complements and coordinates with local and county efforts and that will serve as a model for other natural resource organizations and agencies.

Bridge washout on Skinner Mill Road due to 2006 Mother's Day stormWhy Do This Project?

The Julie N oil spill in Portland Harbor (1996), Mother's Day storm (2006), and Patriot's Day storm (2007) caused extensive environmental and infrastructure damage to the coastal areas of southwest Maine. More recently this region was narrowly spared the great devastation caused by Hurricanes Irene (2011) and Sandy (2012). These events have reinforced that:

  • the occurrence of natural and man-made disasters is unpredictable
  • a lack of preparation can result in a slower and less efficient response
  • resilience of natural resources and man-made infrastructure to disasters can be "built in" in advance to some degree

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Rough and Tumble

February 2, 2014 By Nik Charov Filed under Article Tags: climate changetwo worldsweather

copyright New Yorker 2013

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune and Making It At Home Sunday editions, 2/2/2014.

I will not be the first person to admit that it’s gotten harder to watch football this season. I still love the drama, the personalities, and the heroics of any given NFL Sunday. But some guilt has crept into the game I grew up watching every week with my father. I’m not seeing it the same way I used to.

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MLK and CO2

January 20, 2014 By Nik Charov Filed under Article Tags: climate changetwo worlds

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 1/19/2014. (A slightly different version appeared on this blog last year - yes, we're recycling!)

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”

So wrote Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., from a jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama, more than fifty years ago. Happy birthday, sir.

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Associated People Chris Feurt Kristen Grant Michael Mahoney


Before the holidays came we hosted our eighth and final climate game workshop at Litchfield’s Bar and Grill. The workshops, part of the New England Climate Adaptation Project, simulated the process that a town a lot like Wells would go through to plan for climate adaptation. The games were played with over 100 people that work, play or live in Wells. Meanwhile, the cities of Dover, NH, Cranston, RI and Barnstable, MA wrapped up their workshops. Each community played a different game tailored to climate change related risks their city may face. All totaled, over 500 participants were engaged in the the climate game simulations from June-December 2013.

So, what's next?

  • Summary Risk Assessments for all four communities
  • Published games with teaching notes explaining how to play and run the games
  • Community workshops to review the findings of the risk assessment
  • More publications, reports and articles

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Glacial Time

January 5, 2014 By Nik Charov Filed under Article Tags: climate changemonitoringtwo worldswinter

Compare these two snapshots from the South Cascade glacier official USGS long-term monitoring site in Washington state:

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 1/5/2014.

Quite possibly the best movie l saw in 2013 didn’t open in 3,000 theaters, didn’t have a Morgan Freeman voiceover, didn’t follow a hobbit and his ring.

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Maine's Changing Woods

December 9, 2013 By Suzanne Kahn Filed under Article Tags: climate changeforestforestry

Last week, nearly 60 community members filled Mather Auditorium to learn from visiting speaker Dr. Drew Barton, professor of biology at the University of Maine at Farmington. He used his new award-winning book, The Changing Nature of the Maine Woods, as a platform to speak about how Maine's forests have changed over time and how they are predicted to change into the future with global warming. Below are some highlights from my notes!

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Aerial image looking south toward Wells Bay

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 11/24/13:

Many of the staff of the Wells Reserve at Laudholm were in West Virginia this past week for the annual conference of the 28 national estuarine research reserves. Researchers, educators, conservationists, land managers and even evangelists like me pulled ourselves away from our coastal homes to share ideas, hammer out new projects for 2014, and do some good old-fashioned colleague schmoozing.

I flew out of Portland on a sparkling, "unlimited visibility" Monday afternoon. My Southwest flight passed three miles above the Wells Reserve, giving me the rare opportunity to get a live bird's eye view of our little corner of the Maine coast. Looking down, I smiled quietly over how beautiful and tranquil the place looked.

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The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 10/20/13:

So, what do you believe?

Quick quiz: which of the following have the backing of “scientific consensus”? Violent video games make kids more violent. Sugar makes them more hyper. Carbs make us fat. Vaccines are linked to autism.

Answer: none of the above. Science says so; look them up.

The bigger question: do we trust science?

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Over 85 people filled the Mather Auditorium a couple of weeks ago for "You, Your Food, & the Survival of the Planet" with panelists Mort Mather, John Piotti, and Representative Chellie Pingree. The panelists answered a variety of moderated questions, and then the audience had the opportunity to ask some of their own. Following are some highlights from the notes I took during this most exciting evening!

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Farm to Force

August 25, 2013 By Nik Charov Filed under Article Tags: climate changefarmtwo worlds

Is the sun setting or rising on farming in Maine?

The following was originally published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Thursday edition, 8/22/13:

Wendell Berry said “do unto those downstream as you would have those upstream do unto you.” Situated at the mouths of three rivers, the Wells Reserve at Laudholm is downstream from most of York County. This summer, I’ve been thinking a lot about what’s upstream, particularly farms.

At first glance, Maine doesn’t seem ideal for farming. Our colonial history is a litany of famines and failed harvests. We get some of the least sun of the Lower 48; our soils are the rock-filled remains of mile-high glaciers. Winters, though shorter than they used to be, still bookend a shockingly brief growing season. Why would anyone think of farming here?

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Associated People Chris Feurt Michael Mahoney Kristen Grant

Welcome to the town of Launton, it’s a lot like Wells.


Ever since Hurricane Paul devastated communities to the south of Launton, the residents have been asking the town manager: can we handle a storm like that? What’s our plan?

Feeling pressured, the town manager convened a Coastal Resiliency Task Force. Their charge: make some recommendations about what the town should do with existing and future development.

Who is on the task force? You are! You’ll be assuming one of the many interests that exist in a town a lot like Wells. From Emergency Management Official to Director of the Chamber of Commerce, you’ve got opinions, and you think the town has a solution. But can you come to consensus with the other members on the team? Can you compromise on issues near and dear to your heart, for the sake of the town?

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TOTE 2013: Climate Stewards in Action!

August 1, 2013 By Kate Reichert Filed under Article Tags: climate changestewardshipteachertoteworkshop

Associated People Suzanne Kahn

"We have the opportunity to re-invent the world."

That was a final thought from one participant at the end of last week's Teachers on the Estuary (TOTE) workshop here at the Reserve. After four busy days of guest speakers, hands-on activities, and visits to field research sites, the eight middle and high school educators hailing from states along the east coast from Maine to Florida shared their ideas for implementing stewardship projects in their own schools and communities.

TOTErs measure water quality parameters on the marsh

This year's TOTE Climate Stewards in Action workshop focused on the topics of climate change and ecosystem services. Cameron Wake, professor at the Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space at UNH, kicked of the week with a powerful presentation about climate science and the effects that a changing global climate will have on us, from rising seas to the inevitable dissapearance of Arctic sea ice. While the data was sobering, Professor Wake suggested there was a great deal of hope in teaching students about climate change. He encouraged the teachers to focus on the solutions to climate change rather than the problem, and promote social activism through student-driven projects.

To better understand the current and potential impacts of climate change, the teachers learned about "ecosystem services" (the benefits that people obtain from ecosystems, essentially for free, such as clean air, flood regulation, water filtration, and even simply aesthetic beauty). The social and economic effects of diminished ecosystem services as a result of climate change were felt strongly as we immersed ourselves in a role-play simulation game borne from a collaboration between the Consensus Building Institute, several Reserves, and the Massachusetts Insitute of Technology (MIT). Teachers took on the roles of landowners, business leaders, town planners, elected officials, and other concerned citizens of a fictional coastal town (based on Wells) dealing with rising sea level. This fun activity was a great way to spark conversation about how educators might begin to talk to students about the very real conversations that will be happening in their own homes and communities in the near future regarding climate change.

Because no trip to the Reserve is complete without time outside, TOTE participants enjoyed time out in the field observing ecosystem services first-hand. They learned about habitat assessment work in the Branch Brook from Research Associate Jake Aman, took water quality measurements on the Reserve's salt marsh, and then relaxed and reflected on the week with a beautiful kayak up the Little River.

TOTErs kayak up the Little River

By the end of the week, TOTE teachers left with new ideas, tools, and partners. They will now endeavour to create meaningful, service-based learning experiences throughout the upcoming school year. We are looking forward to their updates, photos, and experiences as they share what they have learned with their students and attempt to "re-invent the world" of science education in a rapidly changing environment. Good luck, TOTE Climate Stewards, and thank you for a wonderful and inspiring week!

Many thanks to the NERRS Science Collaborative for their generous funding of this year's TOTE workshop!

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Tour Our Resilient Coast

July 10, 2013 By Michael Mahoney Filed under Article Tags: adaptationclimate changemaine sea grantsea level rise

Associated People Chris Feurt Annie Cox Kristen Grant

Old Orchard Beach Dune RestorationOn Saturday June 29, 2013, stakeholders in Southern Maine participated in a full day field trip hosted by Maine Sea Grant that highlighted techniques being implemented by property owners to become more resilient in the face of climate-related impacts.

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The nearly 40 people who attended Dr. Stephen Mulkey's "Crisis and Opportunity in the Environmental Century" Climate Stewards lecture in mid-May left with a clear message: We are out of time and we must act now.

Mulkey began his talk with a quote from David Orr, "All education is environmental education… by what is included or excluded we teach the young that they are part of, or apart from, the natural world." Mulkey crowdMulkey spoke of his (incredible) work as President of Unity College, becoming the first college in the country to divest from fossil fuels, as well as recently integrating climate change education across the entire curriculum. Unity's students study the complexity of interactions among the economy, society, and nature--a framework for the future known as "sustainability science."

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Associated People Chris Feurt Kristen Grant


Test an innovative way to help coastal communities understand and prepare for the potential impacts of climate change.

Project Summary

simulationThe Wells Reserve is one of four National Estuarine Research Reserves in New England partnering with communities to test the use of role-play simulations as a means to educate the public about climate change threats, and to help communities explore ways of decreasing their vulnerability and enhancing their resilience.

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Jennifer Hatch, Marketing Manager for ReVision Energy, provided an informative introduction to solar energy options for homeowners on Wednesday evening in Mather Auditorium. Over 40 people attended this Climate Stewards evening lecture, and one lucky winner, Mr. Jed Thomas, went home with the solar charger door prize (below)!

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Tom Twist, Sustainability Officer at The Chewonki Foundation, visited the Wells Reserve last week to present our very first Climate Stewards evening lecture. This series is funded by NOAA's Climate Stewards Education Project. Tom TwistThe lectures aim to enable community members to develop a greater knowledge and understanding of climate change, thereby appreciating the impact of their choices more, reducing their carbon footprints, and becoming more impassioned stewards of the planet.Tom Twist's presentation sent us all down this path towards climate stewardship.

Tom began his talk with reasons to move away from fossil fuels: They run out, they pollute, they cause climate change, they fund tyrannical dictators, and they help widen the divide between the wealthy and the poor. Tom explained the inverse relationship that exists between freedom and the price of oil (learn more in Thomas Friedman's Hot, Flat, and Crowded), and echoed Bill McKibben in saying that Exxon Mobile is the "richest company in the history of money."

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Protecting the Egg

February 26, 2013 By Annie Cox Filed under Article Tags: climate changectprole play

Associated People Chris Feurt

One way to wrap your head around the uncertainty that comes with climate change adaptation is to practice a role play scenario.

egg discussion

Each table of participants at our January three-day Climate Adaptation Training was asked to become a fictitious community and assume different roles. I was the town planner and worked with the mayor, a concerned citizen, a local nonprofit, a scientist, and the private sector. We had to work together to protect our egg.

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Associated People Suzanne Kahn

We're inviting experts on climate literacy, climate politics, and practical solutions to climate-change challenges to Mather Auditorium for a series of thought-provoking and action-inspiring lectures. Please plan to join us — and bring along a friend. Follow the links below for details on each lecture.

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Associated People Chris Feurt Kristen Grant

"Quick! In one minute tell the person across from you something you learned in our three-day Climate Adaptation Training that you plan to take back to your community."

Participants in Climate Adaptation trainingOur 40+ participants weren't phased as they blurted out new information they gained from presentations by the NOAA Coastal Services Center and six local speakers on topics like climate change science, creating a vulnerability assessment, planning for adaptation, and communicating these concepts to your community.

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a thoughtful guy, Martin Luther King, Jr.

I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

So wrote Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., from a jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama, fifty years ago this April.

It is King’s birthday today.

The official holiday is next Monday. As a kid, that January Monday meant only a three-day skiing weekend to me.

I know better now. (Also, we don’t get as much snow as we used to.)

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Hurricane Sandy approaches New York City (NOAA photo)Unprecedented flooding in New York City rekindled the national debate regarding climate change, sea level rise, and the fate of coastal communities. While the deniers and alarmists take turns needling one another no end, many others have begun to unify around meaningful planning for an uncertain future.

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WELLS, Maine, October 29, 2012 — The Town of Wells has begun a two-year study to understand and prepare for the potential impacts of climate change. Wells public officials and local residents, with help from researchers from the Consensus Building Institute (CBI), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS), will be using short games played face-to-face in community meetings to clarify possible climate change risks and to reach agreement on appropriate adaptation measures.

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