Waterlines is a publication of the Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Environmental and Watershed Research
WWW.PEARL.MAINE.EDU…NEW PEARL GOES LIVE
After many months of hard work by Mitchell Center staff, students, and collaborators, the new PEARL website is up and running. With added information on wetlands, coastal and terrestrial ecosystems, biodiversity, recreational access, as well as educational resources and summary information, PEARL is more than ever THE source for environmental information in Maine.
PEARL is a web-based forum for serving data and information relating to Maine's natural resources. Started in 1996 as Public Educational Access to Resources on Lakes, PEARL has evolved into a multi-disciplinary data access and bibliographic resource. PEARL is home to quality-assured data files from state agencies, partner organizations, and individuals. PEARL data are accessed via text- or map-based searches by waterbody, town, county, or even watershed name.
Information currently available or scheduled for upload during 2005 includes:
- lake and stream water quality for over 1000 waterbodies in the state;
- lake morphometry and bathymetric maps;
- lake “landscape” features;
- recreational infrastructure including boat launches, fishing and boating regulations;
- freshwater biodiversity, including Maine Audubon's annual loon count, and plant, invertebrate, fish, amphibian, and reptile data from the Maine Aquatic Biodiversity Project;
- fisheries surveys from Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and the Atlantic Salmon Commission;
- peatland plant communities;
- precipitation chemistry;
- lake ice-out dates;
- “Lakes Guide” – a new feature providing information on Maine’s lakes from a non-technical perspective;
- teacher modules and other educational resources; and
- links to other online data resources and websites.
PEARL's strength is that anyone can use it. Scientists can view and download a wealth of technical data. Teachers can access an active educational component that connects with MLCI and Project Wet, as well as curriculum materials and other online data resources. PEARL is also for the public: for waterfront landowners looking for information on water quality, for fishermen looking for a new trout stream, kayakers looking for boat access, and anyone seeking a better understanding of Maine's natural environment. "We have added, and continue to add, an incredible amount of data to PEARL while at the same time making it easier to navigate the site and understand the information. We will continue to improve how data are accessed, interpreted, and displayed in the hopes that more people will learn about Maine's environment," says PEARL manager Peter Vaux.
As a statewide resource, PEARL is housed at the Fogler Library, University of Maine and is administered by the Mitchell Center. Development continues on PEARL with new and additional features planned for the next year.
Visit the new PEARL today and let us know what you think! www.pearl.maine.edu
ACADIA TRAFFIC PROJECT WRAPS UP
Since 2002, Mitchell Center researchers have made visits during peak and off-peak tourist season at Acadia National Park to take water samples from streams throughout the park. Their goal — to see if traffic at Acadia is affecting water quality in the park’s streams.
Over 3 million visitors visit Acadia each year. In August alone, over 60,000 vehicles pass through the Sand Beach Gate. Establishing the effect of traffic on water quality is the important first step in determining how vehicles are impacting ecosystems. The NPS has actively pursued a long-term monitoring program to document the impact of air pollution on park resources. Although the majority of air pollution occurring at Acadia is attributed to long range transport, the relative contribution of local mobile emissions has not been quantified. The ability to differentiate between the volumes of local in-park emission sources as compared to more distant sources will enhance the ability of park managers to more effectively remedy existing air pollution impacts. This research is the first to study if local traffic can have a measurable effect on water quality.
Vehicles release a variety of organic compounds (i.e. gasoline and oil) and metals from exhaust and tire wear that can end up in surface waters through atmospheric deposition and stormwater runoff. The initial objectives of the study were to establish baseline data on surface water quality for certain organic compounds and metals related to vehicle use, and to ascertain if these concentrations were associated with roads and traffic or if they could be attributed to other sources.
Samples were collected from streams across a gradient from high-use roads to remote regions. This helped discriminate between the effects of local pollutant sources (such as traffic) and longer-range transport and atmospheric deposition. Multiple sites on the same stream were also tested on a gradient away from a road. This provided information on dispersion of vehicular contaminants away from the road. Springs were also chosen to represent pristine surface water unaffected by atmospheric deposition of contaminants.
Three rounds of samples were collected at each location. The objective was to sample during periods of low and high park visitation to compare under similar hydrological conditions. Three seasons were identified: spring (low traffic volume), early mid-summer (high traffic volume), and fall (moderate to low traffic volume). Actual sample dates were: November 16, 2002; June 3, 2003; July 9, 2003; and October 6, 2004. Monthly traffic volume counts were provided by the National Park Service for the Sand Beach gate.
Summary of Results
Results of this study are preliminary and are under review by the National Park Service. Following is an overview of our conclusions; all results are for compounds dissolved in water.
Motor Fuels. No evidence of volatile organic compounds associated with motor fuels was detected at >1 μg/L (1 ppb).
Polynuclear Aromatic Hydrocarbons. No evidence of polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) associated with motor fuels and tires was detected at >1 μg/L (1 ppb).
Metals. Metals associated with vehicles were found in nearly all samples and at all sample dates. Aluminum and zinc were detected in the μg/L (ppb) range, other metals (copper, molybdenum, arsenic, vanadium, lead, nickel, chromium, palladium, cadmium, ruthenium, rhenium, and platinum) were detected in the ng/L (ppt) range.
A surprising discovery was that springs had very elevated metal concentrations. One spring was found to be consistently high in molybdenum. Other locations also exhibited repeated high metal concentrations. A statistical analysis of these results are suggestive of an association with roadways and vehicle traffic. A majority of streams showed an increase in metal content downstream. Several of the downstream sample points were near or below roadways with an increased likelihood of roads and traffic to increase metals in streams.
The hypothesis that nearness to roads and higher traffic counts increase metals in streams was tested using four variables: traffic counts, distance from sample point to paved road, elevation of the sample point, and hydrological flow (stream stage). The combined statistical analyses consistently identified six metals that exhibit significant relationships with traffic, distance from roads, sample point elevation, or flow: aluminum, arsenic, cadmium, molybdenum, palladium, and zinc. Arsenic and molybdenum appear to be the most likely metals related to traffic with effects on surface water quality. Each of these metals may be found in vehicles, exhaust systems, and associated fuels or lubricants.
Full details of the project results will be published shortly. Please contact John Peckenham at 207/581-3254 for additional information.
LISA FRETWELL — STUDYING ALGAL BLOOMS IN THE MEDUXNEKEAG RIVER
Lisa Fretwell is in the midst of her second field season as a Water Resources graduate student at the Mitchell Center. A native of Richmond, Virginia, Lisa graduated magna cum laude from Virginia Tech in 2000 with a degree in environmental sciences. As an undergraduate, she worked for the Virginia Water Resources Research Institute (WRRI). Following graduation, she was employed with URS, an environmental consulting company, conducting environmental reviews, developing floodplain maps, and participating in stream monitoring projects. It was a combination of Lisa’s previous experience working in a WRRI, and her desire to focus on watershed management issues that attracted her to the Water Resources option offered by the Mitchell Center at the University of Maine.
Lisa’s thesis project involves working with the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians who are concerned about water quality and algal blooms on the Meduxnekeag River. The river flows through Houlton, ME and past tribal land receiving runoff from a variety of sources within the watershed. The algal blooms are thought to be due to an excess of anthropogenic nutrient inputs in the river. Lisa’s research aims to establish the current baseline levels of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) in the river, to establish where nutrient loading is occurring in the watershed, and to determine the relationship between nutrients and algal growth.
The research involves biweekly sampling trips from May to September. During each trip, Lisa collects water samples for nutrient analysis at 15 sites along the river. She also conducts algal coverage surveys along transects at each site. The surveys involve wading across the river with a quadrat (an open square frame), placing it along the river bed, and estimating the percent of algal coverage within the area at each point. The estimates allow Lisa to keep track of where the largest algal blooms are forming. In the laboratory, Lisa determines the dominant algal genera at her sites and water samples are analyzed for concentrations of P, N, and N isotope ratios. The N isotope ratios will give her an idea of the influence of various N inputs on the river water chemistry.
The research is a good match for Lisa, who hopes to continue this type of work in the future. While at the Mitchell Center, she has maintained her certification as a floodplain manager (one of only three in the state of Maine) and has participated in the University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s Watershed Stewards program. Although her project and extracurricular activities keep her busy, Lisa enjoys the slow pace of life in Maine and takes advantage of its numerous recreational opportunities. For example, she has become an avid kayaker and an enthusiastic snowboarder.
The results of Lisa’s research will be extremely useful to the Maliseets in developing a nutrient monitoring program and identifying the areas in immediate need of nutrient reduction efforts. The information will also contribute to an ongoing statewide effort to establish nutrient criteria for rivers. Lisa is planning her thesis defense in early 2006, and would like to pursue a career in watershed management, water quality, and outreach, perhaps in the northwestern United States.
MITCHELL CENTER DIRECTOR SEARCH ONGOING
Three finalists were selected and interviewed in the ongoing search for the next Mitchell Center Director. A permanent replacement for current interim director Chris Cronan is expected to be announced in late August / early September.
The three finalists visited the University during mid-July to meet with the search committee, University faculty and administration, and Mitchell Center staff, students and collaborators. We would like to express our thanks to all those who took time out from their busy schedules to provide valuable input during this process.
The finalists come from a variety of backgrounds and each would bring different skills and knowledge to the position if appointed. All have exceptional credentials.
Michael Eckardt, Vice President for Research noted, "These outstanding candidates demonstrate the commitment and importance that the University places on the Mitchell Center Director position and to the value of this line of research."
The selection process is expected to conclude by the end of this month, and has been running smoothly thus far. There have been no delays, other than the normal issues of finding time on busy peoples' schedules and reaching others who are off-campus during the summer months.
BROWN BAG IT! FALL SEMINAR SERIES
The theme for our fall 2005 seminar series is Juggling research, policy and management decisions for federal, state, tribal and conservation lands. Additional seminars are still being added to the schedule. Check the seminar web page for updates.
Unless otherwise noted, all seminars take place at noon at Norman Smith Hall. If you are coming from off-campus, and need parking permits and/or directions, please contact Ruth Hallsworth at 207/581-3196.
Clicking on the seminar date provides additional information on the seminar and speaker.
Friday, September 23, 2005
Speaker: Tim Hall, Maine Department of Conservation's Bureau of Parks and Lands
Topic: Protecting Resources: For People, or From People?
Friday, September 30, 2005
Speakers: Jim Lehner & Luke Muzzy, Plum Creek Timber Company
Topic: Plum Creek's Plans for the Moosehead Lake Region
Location: Bangor Room, Memorial Union
Friday, October 14, 2005
Speaker: Bill Kolodnicki, Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge
Friday, October 21, 2005
Speaker: Pamela Underhill, National Park Service (tentative)
Friday, October 28, 2005
Speaker: Alan Hutchinson, Forest Society of Maine
Topic: CONSERVING MAINE'S NORTH WOODS: Bringing Stability, via Forestland Conservation, to a Rapidly Changing Landscape
Friday, November 4, 2005
Speaker: Jim McKenna, Schoodic Education & Research Center and David Manski, Acadia National Park
Topic: The Schoodic Education and Research Center: a developing model for advancing natural and cultural resource research and education through partnerships and collaborations
Friday, November 18, 2005
Speaker: Sharri Venno, Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians
Friday, December 2, 2005
Speaker: Chandra McGee, University of Maine
Topic: Concentrations of Cadmium in Common Moose Browse in Maine
Governor Appoints Matt Scott to Chair Board of Environmental Protection…
Governor John Baldacci has named the noted aquatic biologist and Mitchell Center Board member Matt Scott as Chair of the Maine Board of Environmental Protection. Matt, who resides in Belgrade Lakes, served as the Deputy Commissioner of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife between 1995 and 1997. Matt is a member of the Mitchell Center’s National Endowment Advisory Board.
A Field Guide to Aquatic Phenomena…
Have questions about things you've seen in freshwater lakes and ponds?
Wondering what that weird stuff is in the water or along the shoreline?
Why are some rivers blue and others brown?
You may find the answers to these and other common questions in the NEW Field Guide to Aquatic Phenomena. You can also download a PDF version of the Field Guide, or call the Mitchell Center at 207/581-3244 to have a copy sent to you. The Field Guide is a project of the Mitchell Center and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.
Biosolids White Paper Released…
A review of beneficial reuse of biosolids as regulated and practiced in Maine has recently been completed by Mitchell Center Assistant Director John Peckenham. The white paper seeks to answer two questions for policy makers, legislators, town officials and the general public: First, is the beneficial use of biosolids as regulated in Maine sufficiently safe and protective of public health and the environment, and Second is a preference for beneficial use over incineration or landfilling supported by research.
The white paper was funded by donations managed by the Maine Waste Water Control Association (donations were solicited from a wide variety of sources including environmental groups that have been critical of biosolids utilization in the past), a grant from the Maine State Planning Office and support from the Mitchell Center.
The Use of Biosolids in Maine: A Review is available from the Mitchell Center web site. A limited number of printed copies are available. To request a printed copy, please contact the Mitchell Center at 207/581-3244.
Graduation for Mitchell Center Student…
Congratulations to graduate student Kit Sheehan who completed her studies this summer. Kit graduated with a M.S. degree in Ecology and Environmental Science with a concentration in Water Resources. Kit’s thesis was entitled, “Quantifying the flux of mercury in forest litter at Acadia National Park, Maine.” Kit is spending the summer working as an intern at Acadia.
Working with Teens on Lake Pollution Problems…
Mitchell Center alumnus Laura Wilson and graduate student Teresa Thornton spent their summer working with disadvantaged high school students through the University of Maine's Upward Bound program. The students have spent the past month investigating pollution levels in Pushaw Lake, where homeowners have struggled with algae blooms for more than three decades.
Laura, who handles water quality work for the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Service, has worked with the Greater Pushaw Lake Association since 2001. She helped coordinate the effort with the Upward Bound students. Their work will provide "jumping off points" for further research, to be funded by a recently received federal grant through the state Department of Environmental Protection, Laura said.
Teresa worked as a facilitator with Upward Bound students Matthew Taylor, Megan Lewis, Elizabeth Ige, Robert Jackson, Kristen Welch, and Nicole Giroux. Working in conjunction with seven other groups, they discovered that a gravel pit close to the lake is a major source of phosphorus. They also did a second study using man-made and natural sources of phosphorus to see which would grow algae faster. Individual student projects included a search for milfoil, and a water quality check using diatom identification. The photograph shows the students counting the algal growth in etched slides with microscopes.
Salmon Journal Publishes Article on Mitchell Center Research…
Mitchell Center science writer Catherine Schmitt article, “It’s in the Water” was published in the Spring 2005 issue of the Atlantic Salmon Journal. The article follows some of the research being conducted at the Mitchell Center on the effect of water quality on Atlantic salmon recovery.
Public Meeting Probes Aquifer Research Findings…
Our last edition of Waterlines included an article on mining's impact on groundwater. On July 19th, Mitchell Center Assistant Director John Peckenham and graduate student Teresa Thornton presented their findings from the study which explored the relationship between sand and gravel mining and groundwater resources in the towns of Lamoine, Hancock, and Ellsworth.
The results of the research concluded that although the groundwater was far from polluted, it did show subtle signs of strain. "It's definitely telling us that some human contamination is getting into the groundwater," John said.
John hopes to continue the study, perhaps comparing the Lamoine data with research in very polluted aquifers elsewhere, to understand the warning signs a town could heed before overdeveloping and losing its fresh water.
For additional information on the study contact John at email@example.com.
Maine Water Conference 2006 Update…
The 2006 Maine Water Conference is scheduled for Wednesday, March 22 at the Augusta Civic Center. Co-chairs for the Conference are Nancy Beardsley, Maine DHHS, Drinking Water Program, and Peter Vaux, Mitchell Center. The Call for Abstracts will be issued in mid-October. Visit the Maine Water Conference web pages for further details.