Please read the following information before leaving for your expedition.

It provides the most accurate information available and will likely answer any questions you have about the project. You may also reach out to your Program Coordinator with any questions you may have.




Climate Change: Sea to Trees at Acadia National Park

Expedition Briefing


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COVID-19 Safety

Please test for COVID-19 before traveling to your expedition; do not travel if you have tested positive, and call Earthwatch right away for the next steps. Visit earthwatch.org/covid-19 for more information on how you can help reduce the risk of COVID-19 impacting your expedition.



The Research

Edges are always interesting places and Acadia National Park sits on the edge—the edge of the deciduous forest to the south and the boreal spruce-fir forest to the north. A particular edge of the sea—where a cold ocean current swooping in from the north meets warm moist continental air. And as climate change builds it affects all species differently—and for some on the edge it’s creating a tipping point. The forests and intertidal zone of Acadia National Park are changing rapidly and are anticipated to change more dramatically than most other national parks, in part because of its position at the southern boundary of boreal forests and on the coast of the rapidly changing Gulf of Maine (Pershing et al. 2015).

Managing protected areas and preserving biodiversity as climate and other environmental conditions change is a major challenge facing conservation. Most protected areas were created with the goal of protecting species in place, resisting change. This approach alone is no longer viable. The US National Park Service (NPS) is shifting approaches to managing change (Colwell et al. 2012). Managers in Acadia are testing different management responses to preserve ecological integrity as conditions change. These management actions include protecting climate refugia (Smetzer and Morelli 2019), rapidly identifying and removing invasive species, restoring vegetation with species assemblages that are resilient to the changing climate, working with clam and marine worm harvesters to manage traditional harvesting in soft-bottom intertidal zones, and managing uses in different areas of the rocky intertidal zones. 

This requires shifts in approaches to inventories, monitoring, and management. For example, in the past, many protected areas inventoried their floras and faunas once or repeated inventories only after very long periods of time (McDonough MacKenzie et al. 2019). We now know that species assemblages are changing quickly, requiring more frequent monitoring. We also know that protected areas are testing new approaches to management, including vegetation restoration projects designed to promote species assemblages adapted to changing climate conditions, or protecting areas identified as climate refugia (e.g., north-facing slopes or cool springs) (Karasov-Olson et al. 2019, Morelli et al. 2016).  

We are asking you to help us as we use biodiversity discovery citizen science (e.g., bioblitzes and opportunistic biodiversity observations) as a promising tool to accomplish frequent monitoring—combining targeted, seasonally repeated, small-scale bioblitzes, with more detailed citizen science monitoring of permanent sites throughout the park. This approach will help us understand how management actions are affecting ecological integrity in our changing park.

The Acadia region relies on its natural resources and tourism for much of its economy. These rapid ecological changes are critical for visitors and residents to acknowledge and understand so they can help to preserve this iconic national park. Long-term monitoring coupled with question-driven research yields critical insights for true understanding of the impact of these changes, which is what makes citizen science so important to the success of this study.


Climate Change: Sea to Trees at Acadia National Park




Research Aims

The primary aims of the project, which are critical to Acadia National Park because of their importance to the long-term management and resilience of natural resources, are to:

  1. Assess how ocean acidification and warming (OAW) affect the biodiversity, structure, and zonation of rocky intertidal communities (Teams 2 and 3 
  2. Examine shifts in forest and intertidal community composition and structure in areas expected to change rapidly or sites prioritized for management actions (Teams 1,4,5,, 6 and 7).
  3. Improve science literacy and environmental stewardship among participants (All teams).

Increasing carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels is causing a decrease in ocean pH (ocean acidification) and an increase in ocean temperature (Bindoff et al. in press). The Gulf of Maine has been particularly affected by ocean acidification and warming (OAW)—it has warmed faster than 99% of the world's oceans (Pershing et al. 2015). OAW has been shown to have a negative impact on the survival and reproduction of marine organisms, especially shell-bearing, calcifying animals (Kroeker et al. 2010). OAW is also predicted to significantly affect marine biodiversity and community structure by disrupting important ecological interactions, such as predator-prey relationships and interspecific competition, and from local (and perhaps global) extinction of some species and the spread of others (Wootton et al. 2008). While the effects of ocean acidification and warming on commercially important species such as clams and oysters have been well studied in Maine, there is limited evidence available for many others, including important intertidal species, such as barnacles and snails.

The research team will aim to answer the following questions related to ocean acidification and warming (OAW):

  • What is the community structure in the intertidal system and how is it changing over time in response to OAW?
  • How are physical conditions of the intertidal system such as pH, temperature, and salinity, changing over time?

In addition to OAW, another threat might be affecting marine organisms and communities of Acadia National Park—microplastics. Microplastics range in size from 0.3mm to 5 mm (Masura et al. 2015) and have emerged as a significant threat to marine organisms and ecosystems. Research has also shown that microplastics can be transferred among trophic levels, such as prey to predator (Farrell and Nelson 2013), which could have wide-ranging ecosystem effects. It is likely that microplastics are threatening ecologically and economically important organisms and communities of the Gulf of Maine. The overall goal of this project is to determine whether microplastic pollution is occurring off the Schoodic Peninsula and MDI and whether marine organisms are ingesting the particles.

The research team will aim to answer the following questions related to microplastics:

  • Do microplastics occur in significant concentrations in the Acadia National Park region? 
  • What type of microplastics occur? 
  • Do marine organisms ingest microplastics?
BIODIVERSITY SHIFTS (Teams 1,4,5, 6 and 7)

Acadia National Park is a hotspot for species invasions because of its heavy visitation (roughly 3.5 million visits annually) and coastal location. Additionally, species from southern locations may be shifting their ranges as climate and other conditions change. Past bioblitzes suggest dozens of species of arthropods new to the park and to Maine have arrived over the past 50 years (Chandler et al. 2012). Long-term intertidal research has shown dramatic shifts in rocky intertidal biodiversity in the Acadia National Park region (Fisher et al. 2009). Climate and vegetation models identified tree species (e.g., forest stands) that are most likely to shift in abundance as climate conditions change (Fisichelli et al. (2013).

Some areas in Acadia National Park are likely to provide climate refugia for species of conservation concern (Smetzer and Morelli 2019). These areas include forests at high elevations, north-facing slopes, wet areas, and coastal areas. Park managers and partners (e.g., land trusts, state agencies) are considering taking actions to protect climate refugia and to maintain ecological integrity in rapidly changing areas (e.g., by removing invasive species). Assessing changes in biodiversity in these areas will test the predictions made by climate refugia and forest change models and will directly inform management actions.

The research team will aim to answer the following questions related to biodiversity shifts in the park:

  • What new species are arriving in the intertidal zone and forests of Acadia National Park?
  • Is biodiversity in areas identified as climate refugia relatively stable over time relative to other areas of Acadia National Park with similar habitats?
  • Are management actions benefiting target native biodiversity and promoting resilience to disturbance?


Climate Change: Sea to Trees at Acadia National Park




How You Will Help

As an Earthwatch participant, you will help inventory and monitor several field sites (forest and/or intertidal), using a variety of sampling methods. You will assist our researchers by 1) conducting both field and lab work looking at the effects of ocean acidification and warming, and microplastics, on intertidal organisms and communities (Teams 2 and 3); 2) working in both the forest and intertidal studying community compositions, documenting birds, insects, plants, seaweed, and intertidal organisms (Teams 3, 6, 7, and 8); ; and 3) possibly transcribing data from historical records related to this work, as opportunity permits (all teams).


For ocean acidification and warming, you will sample permanent sites in the intertidal zone around the Schoodic Peninsula. This includes observing and recording species in quadrats in the middle intertidal zone and along transects from the upper to the lower intertidal to determine the species that are present, including mussels, periwinkles, barnacles, several species of seaweed, and more. These data will be added to a long-term data set to allow us to determine any changes in biodiversity, community structure, and zonation over time. You will also photograph and analyze settlement plots to determine any changes in settlement time and survival of barnacles. Back in the lab, you will conduct experiments on the effects of ocean acidification and warming on interspecific interactions. 

For microplastics, you will collect water from the intertidal zone and coastal areas. Back in the lab, you will filter the samples and then look at them under microscopes to determine the presence, size, type (i.e., fragment, microbead, film, or microfiber), and abundance of microplastics, We will also sample marine organisms, focusing on commercially and ecologically important animals, to determine how many have ingested microplastics and the types of microplastics ingested. 


You will visit several forest and intertidal sites that are important to park management goals. You will inventory plants, algae, invertebrates, mammals, and birds that you can photograph using the citizen science app iNaturalist. You will also record birds readily identified by sight or sound (using eBird or Merlin apps) and signs of mammal activity (e.g., beaver activity, red squirrel middens, mink scat; using iNaturalist). At forest sites, you may help measure tree diameters and soil depth to build on previous forest inventory research. You will learn to identify forest edge and intertidal zone species, as well as some of the bird species that visit or inhabit this edge. You may also hunt for crabs in the intertidal, counting the number of invasive green crabs and native Jonah crabs.


If we experience inclement weather that keeps us from going into the field, you may be involved in transcribing historical records related to the occurrence, abundance, and phenology of forest birds, insects, and plants, and intertidal communities to determine if communities have changed over the last several decades. Mining through these archival records can reveal a treasure of valuable natural history observations that can provide a valuable comparative baseline with which to compare current patterns to.


Climate Change: Sea to Trees at Acadia National Park




Life in the Field

Upon arrival, you’ll receive a safety briefing and a presentation on local history, conservation priorities for Acadia National Park, local examples of global issues, and a framework for all the project’s key protocols. When we begin our fieldwork, project staff will introduce and demonstrate each new task. We’ll work with you until you’re comfortable with any new activities. We will also supervise to ensure data quality. You will spend your days in the forest, and among tidal pools and rock benches along the beautiful Maine coast, and during free time you will have the opportunity to explore the spectacular Schoodic Peninsula portion of Acadia National Park.


Weather and research needs can lead to changes in the daily schedule. We appreciate your cooperation and understanding.

While there is no typical day in the field our ‘typical’ day will be: Breakfast, a briefing of the work to be done for the day, the safety considerations involved with the work, and how the scientists will be using the data we will be collecting. We will follow this up by assembling our field gear, gathering our lunches, and heading into the field. We will spend most of our days in the field gathering data for our research. We may use citizen science apps, such as iNaturalist, and other sampling methodologies to collect data on the abundance and diversity of forest plants, intertidal organisms, and birds. Some teams may work along the forest edge collecting field measurements of trees and soil depth. We will have lunch in the field and complete our field work before heading back to the lab to add our data to the database and prepare for the next day's fieldwork. After our fieldwork, we will listen to a pre-dinner talk from one of the scientists on the project. In the evenings, you will have time to relax and hang out, journal, take pictures, watch for moths or other evening wildlife, and stargaze.

If you want, volunteers can submit observations of moths (and other species) drawn to the buildings' exterior lights and post them here: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/project-porchlight. The project now has over 1,500 species confirmed, with many more awaiting more rigorous species identification!



  • Arrival at Bar Harbor Airport
  • Travel to Schoodic Institute
  • Settle into accommodations, orientation, and team dinner
  • Project introduction and safety overview


  • Introduction to research site and lab, research methods, and species identification training.
  • Safety briefing
  • Learn to use iNaturalist, eBird, and other helpful citizen science apps.
  • Collect data on intertidal and/or forest biodiversity.


  • Continue biodiversity data collection at different forest and/or intertidal sites.
  • 1–2 research presentations or lectures.


  • Departure from Schoodic Institute

Driving: If you drive yourself to the project, Earthwatch and the Schoodic Institute ask that you do not use the vehicle for personal excursions off-site during the expedition. Staying at the Schoodic Institute for the entirety of your expedition allows for deeper opportunities to connect with your team, the research discussions and any other last-minute changes to the following day’s research tasks. 

Riding in another participant’s vehicle is also at your own risk as it is not covered under the expedition’s insurance policy. Please note that a National Park Pass is needed if you plan on driving your own vehicle and parking within Acadia National Park.


Climate Change: Sea to Trees at Acadia National Park




Accommodations and Food

* Please note that not every expedition has couples’ or singles accommodations available. Please call or email Earthwatch to check for availability prior to reserving your space(s) on the team.

Project Accommodations and Food are at the Schoodic Education and Research Center (SERC) campus in Acadia National Park. The campus is the largest National Park Service research learning center in the United States. Until 2002, the site that now houses the education and research center was a U.S. Navy base.


Team members will share bedrooms in a bunkhouse or apartment on the campus. The bunkhouse is a dorm-style building with bunk beds. Each room holds 2–4 participants. 

The apartment style housing consists of 2- or 4-bedroom apartments with a bathroom, kitchen, and common area. Participants will have twin beds within the apartment. All bedding is provided. 

For the season running from June- September 2023: 

  • Teams 2–6 will be in the bunkhouse. 
  • Teams 1 and 7 will be in 2- or 4-bedroom apartments. This is based upon the Schoodic Institute lodging availability.

* Earthwatch will honor each person’s assertion of gender identity, respectfully and without judgment. For both teen and adult teams, where logistics dictate single-sex accommodations or other facilities, participant placements will be made in accordance with the gender identity the participant specified on their Earthwatch Participant form and/or preferences indicated in discussions with Earthwatch.


The bunkhouse has male and female shower rooms—each with two showers and a toilet—as well as two individual bathrooms.


You are welcome to bring your own electronic equipment (cell phones, digital cameras, laptops, etc.), you may be required to limit your use of laptops to recreational time only. You will be asked to use your phone for some apps such as iNaturalist, Nature’s Notebook, and eBird.


The campus is equipped with Wi-Fi capability.

Please note: Earthwatch encourages volunteers to minimize outgoing calls and immerse themselves in the experience; likewise, family and friends should restrict calls to urgent messages only. Emergency communications will be prioritized.


Group activities will take place at various locations, both indoor and outdoor, on the campus (see map here: https://schoodicinstitute.org/contact-us/campus-map/). In the bunkhouse, there is a common room with a small library of books and activities.


Most field sites will be within walking distance of the campus, no more than one mile away. For trips to field sites farther away, we will use a van (and the Covid protocols outlined above).


Participants will eat together (socially distanced), outdoors when possible, with research staff and sometimes with other groups on campus. Breakfast and Dinner are served cafeteria style, following appropriate Covid safety precautions for food service. Bag lunches are eaten in the field.


The following are examples of foods you may find in the field. Variety depends on availability. We appreciate your flexibility.

  • Breakfast: Eggs, pancakes, french toast, bagels, yogurt, granola and fresh fruit
  • Lunch: Bag lunches: sandwich, fruit, cookie or bar, and chips
  • Dinner: Baked chicken, lasagna, soup, breads, salad or seasonal vegetables, and dessert
  • Beverages: Coffee, tea, tap water, soda, iced tea, and lemonade

We also highly recommend bringing extra snacks. There are food storage options as well as a refrigerator and microwave available in each type of accommodation.


Please alert Earthwatch to any special dietary requirements (e.g., diabetes, lactose intolerance, nut or other food allergies, vegetarian or vegan diets) as soon as possible, and note them in the space provided on your participant forms.

This project can accommodate special diets for those requiring gluten-free, dairy-free or vegetarian meals.  

Premade, retail, vegan meals can be available at an additional cost, but must be requested and paid for in advance.


Climate Change: Sea to Trees at Acadia National Park




Project Conditions


For weather and region-specific information, please visit Wunderground.com and search for your project location.


Climate Change: Sea to Trees at Acadia National Park




Essential Eligibility Requrements

All participants must be able to:

  • Enjoy being outdoors most of the day in variable weather, in the potential presence of wild animals.
  • Tolerate cold temperatures and rain.
  • Traverse wet, slippery, rocky or seaweed-covered terrain, and mudflats.
  • Get low (generally squat, kneel or sit) on barnacle-covered coastal rocks.
  • Move through low, thick vegetation over variable terrain.
  • Carry personal daily supplies such as lunch, water, and some small field equipment.
  • Sit upright in a 15-passenger van for up to one and a half hours at a time.
  • Follow verbal and/or visual instructions independently or with the assistance of a companion.
  • Take an active role in your own safety by recognizing and avoiding hazards if and when they arise (including, but not limited to, those described in Earthwatch materials and safety briefings). Always comply with project staff instructions and recommended safety measures.
  • Be able to effectively communicate to the staff if you are experiencing distress or need assistance.
  • Be able to get along with a variety of people from different backgrounds and ages, often in close proximity, for the duration of your team.
  • Be comfortable being surrounded by a language and/or culture that is different from your own.


Climate Change: Sea to Trees at Acadia National Park




Health and Safety


Earthwatch has a 24-hour, 7-day-a-week emergency hotline number. Someone is always on call to respond to messages that come into our live answering service.


Please be sure your routine immunizations are up to date (for example, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella) and that you have the appropriate vaccinations for your travel destination. Medical decisions are the responsibility of each volunteer and their doctor. Visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization for guidance on immunizations.

If traveling from countries or regions where yellow fever is endemic, you must have a certificate of vaccination.

Staying up to date with your COVID-19 vaccinations, including receiving booster doses, as applicable, is strongly encouraged.


Climate Change: Sea to Trees at Acadia National Park




Project Risks and Precautions


We will travel on public roads in a quiet area with few traffic issues but risks inherent in road travel still apply. All participants will have a seat belt and must wear it whenever the vehicle is in motion. A roadside assistance service will be called if a vehicle breaks down.


You will be walking along a rocky coastline and hiking along well-trod paths. Some areas are very well protected from the elements, while others are exposed. Additionally, you will also be walking off-trail, in sometimes thick, low to waist high vegetation or over loose rocks and seaweed. Participants must wear closed-toed shoes with good grip to avoid slipping and long pants (not capris).


Biting and stinging insects and ticks are present. Participants will be briefed on how to inspect for tick bites daily. Participants with allergies should bring an Epi-Pen.


Participants may walk through areas with dense vegetation and poison ivy (although poison ivy is very uncommon in the Schoodic Peninsula section of Acadia), so all participants should wear clothing that covers the arms and legs.


Hands should always be washed after being in the field, especially before eating. Participants are encouraged to take regular breaks and to avoid overexerting themselves. Teamwork and attention to proper technique will keep you from wearing out or getting injured. Inform a staff member immediately if you are feeling tired or ill.


Acadia National Park is a generally safe region for travelers; however, do not leave valuables unattended in public areas.


No swimming is allowed in the Schoodic Peninsula section of Acadia National Park.


There is generally a park ranger on duty during daytime hours who can provide first responder services. The local police, fire, and ambulance are also nearby and can respond reasonably quickly.


Please see below for immunization recommendations. Most diseases are prevented with basic safety cautions. Please see the CDC (cdc.gov) or WHO (who.int) websites for more information. Diseases present in this region of the U.S. include, but are not limited to, Lyme disease, rabies, bovine spongiform encephalopathy, pertussis, and West Nile Fever.


COVID-19 remains an evolving risk to communities and individuals around the world.

Earthwatch strongly encourages you to stay up to date with your vaccinations, including receiving booster doses if available, and to continue to limit your exposure before your program, such as wearing a mask during travel and frequently washing your hands. Persons with a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 should consult with their healthcare provider before participation. 

If you, or another person on site, display symptoms of illness or test positive for COVID-19, you may be required to wear a mask, test for COVID-19, seek medical advice, isolate/quarantine on- or off-site, cease or limit participation in program activities, and/or take other precautions. If local conditions or recommendations from authorities change, additional requirements may be implemented. 

If you must isolate or depart from a program due to COVID-19 or other illness, you will not be entitled to a refund of the contribution for the program, nor any expenses resulting from your participation in the program or a disruption of your travel plans. We strongly encourage you to purchase travel insurance that will cover this eventuality.


Climate Change: Sea to Trees at Acadia National Park




Travel Planning


Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport, Trenton ME 

* Additional information will be provided by Earthwatch to meet your team. Please do not book travel arrangements such as flights until you have received additional information from Earthwatch.


Earthwatch strongly recommends that travelers investigate their destination prior to departure. Familiarity with the destination’s entry/exit requirements, visas, local laws, and customs can go a long way to ensuring smooth travel. The U.S. Department of State's Traveler’s Checklist and Destination Guides are helpful resources. For LGBTI travelers, the U.S. Department of State's LGBTI Travelers page contains many useful tips and links.


You are responsible for reviewing and abiding by your destination's entry/exit requirements. 

Entry visa requirements differ by country of origin, layover, and destination and do change unexpectedly. For this reason, please confirm your visa requirements at the time of booking and again 90 days before travel. Please apply early for your visa (we recommend starting six months before the start of your expedition). Refunds will not be made for volunteers canceling due to not obtaining their visa in time to meet the team at the rendezvous. You can find up-to-date visa requirements at the following website: travisa.com.

If a visa is required, participants should apply for a TOURIST visa. Please note that obtaining a visa can take weeks or even months. We strongly recommend using a visa agency to expedite and simplify the process.


Climate Change: Sea to Trees at Acadia National Park





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  • A Coastal Companion: A Year in the Gulf of Maine, from Cape Cod to Canada. (Catherine Schmitt)
  • Ocean Acidification (Jean-Pierre Gattuso & Lina Hansson)
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Climate Change: Sea to Trees at Acadia National Park



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