The Gulf of Maine continues to warm and rise

BIDDEFORD, Maine – The Gulf of Maine is warming and rising, according to the University of New England (UNE).

“Long-term trends suggest that during the future warm periods, ocean temperatures will be even higher than in the past,” said UNE in their Maine’s Climate Future 2015 Update.

Compared to the 1950s, the Gulf of Maine now is much warmer, according to UNE.

Average rainfall had increased in the Gulf of Maine. Its sea-level had increased by 7 inches and will rise by 5 to 24 inches by 2050, said UNE.

Shorter winters in Maine due to climate change

ORONO, Maine — The average yearly temperature for Maine increased 3.2 degrees Fahrenheit in the last 124 years, and six of the warmest years on record occurred after 1998, according to the University of Maine.

”Statewide average annual snowfall is estimated to have decreased by about 17 percent over the past century,” said researchers in Maine’s Climate Future.

Researchers have studied historical ice-out dates of 29 lakes in Maine from 64 to 163 years, according to this report. Lakes ranged from icing out one-day early to “more than three weeks earlier,” according to researchers.

Higher temperatures in Maine mean winter is changing. Since the mid-1990s, Maine winters have more rainfall than snowfall, according to the University of Maine. Maine lakes have experienced ice-out earlier during the winter-spring time in Maine.

Winter ticks caused a decrease in the moose population

DURHAM, New Hampshire — Mortality rates of moose is due to the winter tick increase, according to researchers. The change in temperature in the Northeast allows the winter tick to flourish, said researchers.

Due to the increase of hot temperatures, ticks can extend their life and thus, use moose for their blood, according to a study published by the University of New Hampshire [above link].

“Three consecutive years (2014 – 2016) of winter tick epizootics (animal disease) is unprecedented in the region, rare in North America, and arguably reflects a host-parasite relationship strongly influenced by climate change at the southern fringe of moose habitat,” said researchers (2019, Life Science Weekly).

Basically, this is a disease that has affected moose specifically – killing them. More importantly, climate change caused this disease, according to researchers.

Climate change stressors on Casco Bay

CASCO BAY, Maine — The members of the Casco Bay Estuary Partnership are working together through the Casco Bay Plan to protect the natural beauty and resources of Casco Bay from climate change since 2016, according to the Casco Bay Plan 2016 – 2021.

The Casco Bay Plan will help eliminate combined sewer overflows, reduce storm-water pollution, improve urban waterways, keep waters safe for swimming, monitor water quality, and reduce according to the Casco Bay Plan.

In Casco Bay, ocean-related businesses in 2012 provided 9.5 percent of the total jobs in Cumberland County, according to the Casco Bay Plan.

Casco Bay has lost its eelgrass beds due to climate change, according to the Casco Bay Plan 2016 to 2021. Eelgrass beds provide critical habitats for the organisms who live in the estuary as well as provide good water quality.

Casco Bay fisheries and agriculture suffered because of climate change the Casco Bay plan reported.

“Aquaculture operations in Casco Bay are growing in number while once abundant species like cod are increasingly rare,” said the report.

Maine experienced a rise in air temperatures, intense rainfall, warming ocean temperatures, acidifying coastal waters, and rising seas, according to the Casco Bay Plan 2016 to 2021.

“A 2013 ‘rapid assessment’ by scientists at two Casco Bay locations found that between one-fifth and one-third of all identified marine species were not natives,” said the Casco Bay Plan.

Maine’s coastline takes a hit from climate change

PORTLAND, Maine — Maine Law, Maine State Planning Office, and Maine Geographical Society prepared a plan called Anticipatory Planning for Sea-Level Rise Along the Coast of Maine on how Maine can prepare for the erosion of shoreline due to rising sea levels.

The plan deals with possible scenarios of climate change for the Maine people. Maine’s soft coasts such as coastal sand dunes, coastal wetlands, and coastal eroding bluffs are in danger of erosion due to high sea levels, according to the plan.

“For beaches and coastal wetlands, that erosion and inundation would be exacerbated by an accelerated rate of sea-level rise associated with global climate change,” wrote researchers in the plan. Researchers projected that climate change will significantly eat away sand beaches in coastal Maine.

The report goes into ways in which the state of Maine can avoid these dangers by following a few possible adaptive strategies, planning and regulatory policies, and education.

Possible strategic plans for Maine were anticipatory actions such as finding a cost-effective design in the change position of the coastline and extreme weather patterns, dissuade plans to make buildings on possible places of erosion, increase the number of publicly owned or controlled buildings by waterfront and develop nature preserves by the coastal wetlands, according to the plan.

“The earlier that the public is on notice of the likelihood of rising sea level and the policy choice of a retreat strategy, the more likely the regulations are to withstand legal challenge,” wrote the researchers of the plan.

The plan projected change in shoreline by the year 2100. If the sea levels rise by half of a meter, the projected shoreline will degrade by 3 to 35 meters, according to the plan.

Old Orchard Beach will lose up to 80 acres of land due to a sea-level rise of 50 centimeters, according to the plan.

“Since 1991, about $3.9 million has been channeled into public improvements in waterfront and downtown areas which are potentially at risk,” wrote researchers of the plan.

In a projection of climate change effects on Maine’s wetlands is approximately 10 to 350 feet of wetland coastline loss, according to the plan.

“There are more than 5,000 acres of salt marsh in the combined Casco and Saco Bay regions; they comprise roughly 20% of the regions’ coastline,” wrote researchers in the plan.

If Maine plans accordingly to projections, we may have a chance on saving our economy and our coastlines

Maine must plan for the future

PORTLAND, Maine — We must plan for the future due to the climate change effects on Maine’s farming and fishery businesses, according to a climate change report sent from Climate Change Institute (CCI) and the University of Maine at Orono (UMO).

From 1912 to the present, on average, there was an increase of rainfall by approximately 1 foot and an increase of sea levels by approximately 7 inches, according to the report. An increase in rainfall is not the only effect of climate change has on Maine.

On average, from January 1895 to the present, coastal Maine temperature increased by approximately 3 degrees Fahrenheit, said researchers in this climate report.

In 2012, the lobster in Maine changed due to the temperature change. The lobster population increased because of increased temperature and the cod population decreased because of over-fishing, according to the UMO and CCI researchers.

“Recent fluctuation of temperature in late winter and early spring may cause early crop growth before the last freeze,” wrote researchers.

Because of late frost, in 2012 and in 2016, the apple and other crops were affected in Maine, according to the report.

There was a positive effect of climate change on Maine’s farms in the report.

“Since the year 2000, the growing season has increased by about 2 weeks in comparison to the 20th century,” wrote researchers in the report.

Climate change changed Maine

PORTLAND, Maine — Spring is arriving earlier, according to this report from the state of Maine. The climate in Maine is changing where summers have gotten hotter, and winters “becoming warmer and less snowy” according to the report by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

The changing climate in Maine will impact its agriculture. Warmer temperatures create heat stress on “economically important crops,” according to UCS.

Fishing for cod will get harder for Maine’s fishermen. Warming Gulf of Maine will decrease cod stock, according to UCS. Additionally, Atlantic salmon will have many challenges getting upstream due to short-term droughts, the report said.

Recreation in Maine will also take a hit. Maine will no longer have long ski seasons due to climate change in Maine the report said. Snowmobiling will also get cut short as the winter warms up.

Climate change in Maine will also challenge logging and forestry. “Mud season” will last longer making logging difficult, according to the report.

The air quality will decrease and diseases carried by mosquitoes and ticks will increase, UCS said.

Confronting temperatures in Maine

PORTLAND, Maine — Spring is arriving earlier, according to this report from the state of Maine. The climate in Maine is changing where summers have gotten hotter, and winters “becoming warmer and less snowy” according to the report by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

The changing climate in Maine will impact its agriculture. Warmer temperatures create heat stress on “economically important crops,” according to UCS.

Fishing for cod will get harder for Maine’s fishermen. Warming Gulf of Maine will decrease cod stock, according to UCS. Additionally, Atlantic salmon will have many challenges getting upstream due to short-term droughts, the report said.

Recreation in Maine will also take a hit. Maine will no longer have long ski seasons due to climate change in Maine the report said. Snowmobiling will also get cut short as the winter warms up.

Climate change in Maine will also challenge logging and forestry. “Mud season” will last longer making logging difficult, according to the report.

The air quality will decrease and diseases carried by mosquitoes and ticks will increase, UCS said.

Scarborough’s food waste program

SCARBOROUGH, Maine — Scarborough’s solid waste pilot program did not work for the residents of Pleasant Hill Road based on their feedback sent in September 2017, but the program was not a waste of time, according to the town Scarborough.

The Scarborough town council will make a decision on the next steps for the town’s waste removal after Scarborough’s sustainability coordinator, Kerry Grantham, presents the results of both Scarborough and South Portland food waste pilot programs to them in January 2018. The town council will review feedback from residents who participated in both programs.

Normally, Scarborough’s trash collectors, Pine Tree Wastes, collected both trash and recycling every week. In Scarborough’s food waste pilot program, Pine Tree Wastes collected food waste weekly, but alternated recycling and trash collection every week for the 260 residents of Pleasant Hill Road.

The program began in May and was set to end in January 2018. The program discontinued in September after Pleasant Hill residents sent back their surveys.

Many of the residents of Pleasant Hill Road reported that waiting for trash collectors to pick up the recycling for two weeks was problematic because, after an extra week, they had an overflow of recycling.

“Everyone vocalized that they preferred not to alternate trash and recycling,” said Grantham. “We learned that for a lot of families, Amazon purchases are convenient.”

Some residents threw away recycling in the trash.

“Over time, the amount of contamination of recycling and of trash was much higher than normal,” said the University of Southern Maine professor, Travis Wagner, who worked with Scarborough and South Portland on their food waste programs.

Some of the residents had a positive response to the program. Some families wrote in their surveys that the food waste disposal was hard at first, but as soon as they changed their habits, it was easy.

“Families were examining their waste behaviors,” said Grantham.

The Scarborough town council will also review feedback from South Portland’s residents who participated in the South Portland food waste program.

South Portland contracted Garbage-to-Garden to collect food waste, garbage, and recycling together weekly for 600 homes in the Knightville and Meetinghouse Hill neighborhoods for their food waste pilot program. The town of South Portland pays for the pilot program.

The majority of feedback reported on the South Portland pilot program were positive.

“We did a hauling contract for a year, so ours is continuing on. They [the pilot programs] were really just two different models. We haven’t had any problems yet,” said South Portland’s sustainability coordinator, Julie Rosenbach.

Researchers are not willing to release data before South Portland’s pilot program ends.

The Scarborough town council will consider the next steps for the town’s waste removal in January 2018. The Scarborough Energy Committee reported that Scarborough’s waste had 30 percent of food waste and recommended a food waste collection service. The Scarborough town council voted against the use of city-required trash bags to reduce waste collection costs.


Update 12/3/2018: As of now, Scarborough is not participating in a food waste program. Instead, there are Garbage-to-Garden compost bins set out in specific locations for residents to throw away their food waste.

What is natural selection?

We’ve all heard about the naturalist, Charles Darwin, and his voyage on the HMS Beagle. He looked at some finches. He found out about natural selection. He wrote a book. What was it called?

The Origin of the Species.

It was much more than that. Darwin didn’t suddenly get the idea of evolution in his head after gawking at some animals. Darwin knew about fossils and the layers of rock that cover them (strata). So he had context before he set foot on the HMS Beagle.

After dropping out of medical school to go to Cambridge, Darwin met Captain Robert Fitzroy of the HMS Beagle.

Fitzroy wanted to document the shorelines of South America and asked Darwin if he wanted to come. He said yes.

In December 1831, they set off on their journey.  For most of the trip, Darwin observed nature in South America. While observing, he made some startling discoveries.

  • Darwin noticed that animals and plants were right for their environments.
  • He found out that organisms who lived in South America looked like other animals and plants in temperate places of Europe.
  • Darwin also discovered fossils that didn’t look like the organisms who lived in South America.

Returning the original quest, Darwin did explore geology. When he wasn’t seasick, he read Lyell’s Principles of Geology. He found fossils in the Andes showing that a possible earthquake event happened.

Later, Darwin became interested in the different species of birds on the Galápagos Islands such as the mockingbird and the finch. While observing the mockingbirds, he noticed that they were unique to each other in different environments.

There were many organisms that showed adaptations. According to Campbell Biology, adaptations, in certain environments, are traits given to an offspring by one or both parents that help that organism survive and pass on its genes (2013, Reece, 440).

When Darwin observed finches, he found that different finches eat different things and have unique beaks to suit their needs. How did these animals become different from each other? Darwin’s explanation was natural selection.

In Campbell Biology, natural selection is the system in which organisms that are better suited for their environment (as opposed to organisms that aren’t) survive and reproduce (Reece 441). A parent who has a trait that helps them live is more likely to pass on that trait to its offspring allowing that offspring to do the same. For natural selection to work, reproduction is at its highest.

A great example of natural selection is Darwin’s finches.

  • There’s the cactus-eater (example: Geospiza scandens). The cactus-eater is able to eat cacti with its long sharp beak.
  • There’s the insect-eater (example: Certhidea olivacea). The insect-eater with its small pointy beak can smash insects and eat them.
  • There’s also the seed-eater (example: Geospiza magnirostris). The seed-eater has a very large stout beak to crush seeds with (examples provided by Campbell’s Biology: Reece 467).

These different birds deal with different environments. If the cactus-eater was somehow transported to the insect-eaters environment, they wouldn’t survive. The cactus-eater doesn’t have the right beak to eat insects.

In The Origin of the Species, Darwin called evolution “descent with modification” meaning organisms become different species. In his book, he never used the word “evolution.” He believed that every organism descended from one life form (2013, Reece, 441).

With branches and twigs representing different species, Darwin perceived life as a tree.

This way of looking at different forms of life is still used.

Let’s Recap

Natural selection involves an inheritable trait or adaptation that an organism uses to survive and give to its offspring. After a long time, a species living in a certain area will become better suited for that environment. When or if the habitat changes, said species may also adapt bridging a way for a new species (2013, Reece, 444).

Natural selection is not “survival of the fittest” in which an individual organism is physically apt. Natural selection involves the survival of an entire species in its environment.


Reference: 

Reece, Jane B. Urry, Lisa A. Cain, Michael L. Minorsky, Peter V. Jackson, Robert B (2013). Campbell Biology. (10th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

Teaching climate change

PORTLAND, Maine — Lucille Benedict is an associate professor at the University of Southern Maine who teaches climate change education to her chemistry students.

“In the general chemistry course, I focus on talking about climate change as much as I can,” said Benedict. “It allows the students to understand how chemistry and climate change are so intertwined together.”

Chemistry allows an avenue into science communication that can give a student the understanding of how the properties of the world can influence each other, and in turn, explain those properties and the effects of those properties on our world.

“It’s really about getting the information to the students around climate change,” said Benedict.

Scientists today tend not to clarify their studies to the general public so it is important that teachers such as Benedict instruct students on how to explain their climate change research clearly.

“It is something I teach my students on it’s hard to take work that is so complex and distill it down,” said Benedict.

That said, Benedict does work with media studies teachers at the University of Southern Maine to explain climate change to the public.

“I also [sic] work with other faculty in the university in communication and media studies, and in social work. I connect the story and the media perception and science of it all together because you don’t see disciplines coming together to tackle these important projects,” said Benedict.

Some of the ways people can do their part are to become a leader in their choices regarding climate change. Benedict takes the bus to work every day. By telling her students this, she becomes a leader of a small climate change movement.

“You become the leader in these changes and you can make a bigger impact than just yourself,” said Benedict.

For students who want to communicate science to the general public, Benedict suggested that they take science classes.

“Student who want to dive in and really do the research, I tell them that you need a really good science base,” said Benedict.

Teaching students how to educate other people about climate change science, taking the steps to become a leader of climate change action, and helping people learn about climate change are things that we can all do together.