Earthwatch Expedition: Protecting Nature in Acadia National Park

Climate Change

Climate Change: Sea to Trees at Acadia National Park

How is a national treasure being reshaped by the changing climate? Help scientists search for clues in Acadia National Park.

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The facts

Why the research is important

Why the research is important

Help researchers add to over 120 years of data, revealing how our reliance on fossils fuels is affecting one of America’s most beautiful places.

Increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is contributing to warming temperatures and ocean acidification. It is also beginning to change the timing of when various species depend on each other’s resources or services.

Get a detailed look at environmental change in Acadia National Park. You’ll examine the impacts of global change phenomena—including warming temperatures and ocean acidification—on plants and wildlife, on land and within the intertidal zone.


A team member collects a soil sample.

Changes in temperature and precipitation are now known to cause shifts in when flowers bloom, and subsequent changes in when those flowers become fruit. Those shifts, in turn, may lead to a flower blooming before its main pollinator arrives on the scene, or make it harder for birds to find the fruits when they need them. These are called “ecological mismatches”, and scientists are just now trying to decipher what this means for natural communities.


The forests of Acadia are dynamic systems and we have many questions about how they are responding to a changing climate - which species will stay, which will move out, and which will move in? Computer models predict the answers to these questions, but only the forests themselves will reveal the true answer. Team 1 will focus their time assisting scientists in returning to establishing long-term forest monitoring plots surveyed by Earthwatchers in the 1990s to survey the plants, soil, and human use of the plot to pursue answers to these questions.

Lastly, as carbon dioxide increases in the atmosphere, the ocean does what it has always done and absorbs much of that gas. Without this service, CO2 levels would be much higher, and temperatures would be much hotter. However, CO2 in the water leads to higher levels of acidity. For many shell-bearing creatures in the intertidal zone (and beyond), this means shell structure may be compromised, leading to lower survival rates for these organisms. The increased acidification can also cause changes in important behaviors, such as an organism’s ability to detect predators. All of this combined is likely to lead to changes in the structure of marine communities.

These changes are important both ecologically and economically, as the Acadia region relies on natural resources and tourism for much of its economy. Help scientists and Schoodic Institute reveal how all these connections are being influenced by a changing climate.

About the research area

Acadia National Park, Maine, United States, North America & Arctic

Daily life in the field


This is a summary:

The Scientists


Science Coordinator, National Park Service, Acadia National Park

ABOUT Abraham Miller-Rushing

Dr. Miller-Rushing is a phenologist—a scientist who studies seasonal changes over time. He feels the biggest management action needed for Acadia National Park is to tell the story of what’s happening there to agencies and the public.



Accommodations and Food

Accommodations and Food


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