All posts by Jessica Selva

Casco Bay Science and Recreation

Our second home base while on our schooner adventure was Hermit Island. Don’t let the name fool you though, it isn’t actually an island! Getting to Hermit involved some beautiful warm, but slow, sailing. At one point, after seeing a small pod of porpoises, the waters of outer Casco Bay were so calm the captain issued a swim call, which meant it was time to get wet! Many jumped off the Bagheera while some stayed on deck and watched the fun unfold. The waters were slightly cold but that’s expected for a swim in early October.


We arrived via the Bagheera right as the sun was beautifully setting in the distance, and Dr. Erikson shuttled us and our gear to the campsite. Tents and dinner were prepared in the dark with our only light source being our head lamps as the days keep getting shorter and shorter. An early bedtime in preparation for a new day followed soon, but not before a campfire was made to roast marshmallows!


After breakfast the next day we again boarded Bagheera to head to the New Meadows River estuary. This estuary is restricted with little flushing of water, and therefore we expected this might be a place with some stratification caused by density differences of the fresh and salt water. As we took sonde measurements (temperature, salinity, pH etc.) heading up the river from mouth to head of the estuary we observed the highest chlorophyll amounts of the trip so far, up to 18 micrograms/L! This indicates a large nutrient input most likely from the river and runoff which fuels phytoplankton production. Along with the sonde data we also took a core sample from the sediments deep below the water. We watched as our coring device, which looks like a long metal tube with teeth inside, plummeted down to the bottom and slowly got cranked back up with some human horsepower. This core sample was smooth, similar to an ice cream consistency! There were no sand particles present, it had a deep dark mud color and was also pretty smelly due to hydrogen sulfide. This smell indicates this was most likely an anoxic mud layer full of organic matter. As we left the estuary, we had a short lecture on how large fish kills can occur due to anoxic conditions in the estuary. As the stay filled with science and adventure came to an end, we once again enjoyed a shuttle ride to the campsite. These shuttle rides were short, but I particularly enjoyed reading all of the names of the lobster boats as we rode through. The stay on Hermit island was short, but the memories will certainly last much longer!

-Jess Selva ’17

Beach Days

After finishing up Glacial Geology and Climate Change in New Hampshire, we headed to Popham Beach in Phippsburg, Maine. Our first day in Popham was a beautiful 80 degree day with clear sunny skies! We headed to the beach front for fieldwork and some relaxation, and Dean Ireland joined us for the ESS experience.

Our fieldwork consisted of creating a beach cross-section profile.  We measured the changing slope from the low tide line to the back dunes, and measured the grain size distribution of the sand.  This information is essential in understanding the dynamics of this ecosystem, and will be used in part when understanding what organisms occur where.

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After our fieldwork was complete, we were able to have some free time. In our free time many of us went swimming in the ocean and rode the huge waves. Some of us stayed in the water for over 40 minutes riding the waves or body surfing, while other got out to play some Frisbee on the beach. We also wandered over to Fox Island, which is only an island at high tide. We all climbed up on the rocks to get a 360-degree view of Popham Beach and to see a distant lighthouse. We quickly had to leave though, as the tide was coming in and the sand bar connecting to Fox island was quickly disappearing.

Later that evening, Dr. Erikson said his goodbyes for now as he goes back to campus to teach.  In a few short weeks we will be reunited yet again, but for now we will be learning marine ecology with Dr. Teegarden.  We look forward to having class on a beautiful beach with a great professor!

-Leia Berube ’18 and Jess Selva ’17


Welcome to Canada

O Canada! On a foggy Sunday morning we again packed the van to head to Fundy National Park, in Alma, New Brunswick. We were just as foggy as the air, as we all went in and out of sleep the whole trip. A few rough roads and the climbing of steeps hills in an extremely heavy van jolted us awake every once in a while, but nothing could completely deter us from sleeping. After we smoothly crossed the border we quickly noticed some differences in our northern neighboring country. We passed multiple maximum speed 110 signs (km/h of course!), saw various things written in French and got to hold some plastic Canadian money that smells like maple syrup! We enjoyed a long dinner in a quiet St. John then kept trekking on towards Fundy. Our expected 6 hour drive had become an 8 hour trip. When we finally arrived at our destination past dark we got to see our home for a few days, a couple of “O Tentiks.” These small tent-like structures provide us with a warm shelter including beds and tables and are powered by small solar panels.  After exploring our tents for a few minutes it was time to unpack. Once the van was unpacked we wound down the night while playing games (Liars’ Dice) by the light of a lantern and prepared ourselves for another early day of the ESS.

We will be in various parts of Atlantic Canada until August 30th learning about glacial geology, climate change, field methods and oceanography. Our first full day here was rainy and gloomy, but we got to catch a glimpse of the extreme tidal range of Fundy; up to 50 feet in some parts! We can’t imagine a better place to learn about these topics than here in beautiful Canada.


-Jessica Selva 2017 and Emma Mills 2019