Wi-Fi in Wild Spaces? No thank you.

Imagine camping in a national park. Do you picture sitting around a smoldering campfire enjoying gooey s’mores and planning tomorrow’s hike? Me too. But a team of Trump-appointed advisors wants to modernize that outdated scene.

Earlier this month, The Guardian reported that an advisory committee pitched a plan to “upgrade” national park campgrounds with Wi-Fi, food trucks, and even Amazon deliveries. America’s Best Idea is too old-fashioned, they argued. It must join the rest of us in the 21st century. Their new proposal begs the question: do the national parks need a technological revolution? 

Before diving into the downsides of the recommendations, I should acknowledge that the committee proposed some much-needed improvements: more campsites designed for extended families, improved partnership and planning with gateway communities, and better equipment rentals in the national parks. But the detractors in their proposal far outweigh its bright spots. 

Yosemite National Park Night Sky
The starry night sky from Yosemite National Park’s volunteer campground. The only light pollution here was from a campfire.
Continue reading “Wi-Fi in Wild Spaces? No thank you.”

Photos and Words from the Great West

If you’ve followed my Facebook page recently, you may have noticed new photos from Utah and Arizona. This fall, I took my usual Maine-based classroom into the Great West.

Starting in September, I spent two months traveling through Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona studying ecology, public lands, and people’s senses of place. With a small group of students from College of the Atlantic, we visited some of the most spectacular places in the country. But we also spoke to some of the most passionate people I’ve ever met. While I took many pictures along the way, I also took pages and pages of notes. With these notes I’m writing a book, or a collection of essays, about conservation in the American West.

Now West, What’s Next?

Coming soon: the book, now titled “Why Conservation Matters: Exploring Human Ecology in the American West” will be completed in January 2018. Stay tuned for more photographs and special excerpts on this site, my Facebook page, and on Flickr.

The Summer Visitors of Great Duck Island

A Summer Sojourn

On Great Duck Island, the field researchers from College of the Atlantic are just temporary summer visitors. But they are not the only ones. Almost all of the birds who rely on the small protected island in the Gulf of Maine for breeding, nesting, and raising young are only summer visitors themselves.

June 2017. The end of my second year at College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine. After I wrote my human ecology essay and finished spring term, I hopped on the M/V Osprey and rode out to Great Duck Island—a haven for nesting seabirds. The island is about 10 miles southeast of Mount Desert Island, Maine, where College of the Atlantic and Acadia National Park are located.

Herring gulls on Great Duck Island
Many herring gulls nest on the rocky berm of Great Duck Island. Their nests are marked with orange flags by College of the Atlantic researchers at the beginning of the season.

The professor of ecology at College of the Atlantic, John Anderson, manages the college’s Alice Eno Research Field Station on Great Duck Island. The 1890 Coast Guard light keeper’s residence houses the research station.

Lighthouse Staircase
The iron spiral staircase on the inside of the brick lighthouse on Great Duck Island.

The Coast Guard automated the lighthouse in 1986, making the lighthouse keeper’s job unnecessary. The government then sold light stations across the country like the one on Great Duck to other government agencies or colleges and universities. In 1997, College of the Atlantic acquired the light station and residence to establish the Alice Eno Research Station. Today, College of the Atlantic owns a few acres on Great Duck Island while the Nature Conservancy owns almost all of the remainder.

Herring gull and chick
A herring gull banded by College of the Atlantic and its chick.

Continue reading “The Summer Visitors of Great Duck Island”