October 28 – November 1, 2019


In the Field: Update from the Wilderness & Place in Maine (TERRAIN testbed) Team


This week’s remarkably detailed  In the Field update comes straight from TERRAIN cohort 2 team leader Aly McKnight …


TERRAIN students have been diving deep into marine waterbirds lately, leading up to the long-awaited (by Aly) waterbird survey we conducted this Wednesday from the Vinalhaven ferry. To prepare for the survey, the students learned to identify 22 waterbird species common to Penobscot Bay, ranging from sea ducks to loons and alcids. They spent last week’s integrated project period constructing individualized “distance estimation sticks,” which utilize geometric principles to aid in distance estimation on boat-based marine bird and mammal surveys. We also spent a good bit of time in that project session doing a “dry run” of the survey technique, where an observer spots and identifies all birds within ~250m of one side of the boat, while a data recorder inputs the species, count, behavior, distance, and angle for each sighting into a specialized survey app that stamps each record with the time and geographic coordinates. Students were thus well-prepared to pull off the actual survey, where we traveled in two different groups on four ferry legs, gathering 500 waterbird records. We are now compiling the data and happy to report that no iPads were lost overboard! While on the island, we got to visit the Vinalhaven Historical Society museum, where we interacted with artifacts illustrating the small community’s granite- and fishing-entwined history. During yesterday’s integrated project session, we used the survey project experience to explore connections between evolutionary relationships and classification, using our now well-known waterbird species as a model taxonomic group. Students are also using the project experience to explore differences in how we use sources in scientific work versus narrative writing. Next week we will dive into data analysis, using the survey data to assess detection rates, estimate population sizes, put together maps of where we saw each species, and start to make inferences about habitat use based on the exact locations of our sightings along depth and shore distance gradients.


Behind the Scenes


Two weeks ago, Chief Sustainability Officer Jenny deHart and Chief Facilities Management Officer Jim Kauppila met with Sustaining the Flagship members to discuss anticipated needs to support the TERRAIN launch in 2020. This week, Jenny and Jim returned to the group to share their initial suggestions for creating or repurposing spaces on campus to meet the needs for classrooms and residence hall common spaces that can accommodate larger groups of students and on-campus housing options for TERRAIN Fellows.


I also had an opportunity to meet with a group of first year students in Unity Experience to share information about the quarter calendar and answer their questions about TERRAIN and upcoming curricular changes. To help make new ideas more concrete, I prepared a couple of hypothetical schedules. After the discussion, students reported that these examples were helpful. I would like to encourage anyone who has questions to visit my office and speak with me directly. And please feel free to send students or employees my way if I can be helpful.







TERRAIN update archive




Jennifer L. Cartier, Ph.D. (she, her, hers)

Dean of the School of Environmental Citizenship

Professor of Education

Unity College

Unity, Maine 04998

(412) 215-6511 (cell, preferred)

(207) 509-7282 (office)


Office: Constable Hall 201