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UMM Receives EPA Grant to Support Courses on Climate Change and Water Quality

Added on: July 19, 2013

A view of the Machias River (Photo courtesy of the Downeast Coastal Conservancy)
A view of the Machias River. (Photo courtesy of the Downeast Coastal Conservancy)

MACHIAS, Maine – Students at the University of Maine at Machias will examine water quality and the effects of global climate change on 4.5 miles of shore land along the Machias River and Middle River this fall thanks to a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency and Maine Campus Compact.

UMM was selected as one of 19 colleges and universities to receive a $5,000 sub-grant from the Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont Campus Compacts for the purpose of preparing college students for a lifetime of environmental stewardship.

A team of UMM faculty received training at a two-day institute in June and will receive ongoing support in developing courses that partner with community organizations to address local climate change and water quality issues. Students who take the courses created by trained faculty will get hands on, real-world experience to strengthen their learning and create connections to the larger community while helping to address some of the state’s most pressing environmental issues.

Runners on the Sunrise Trail that passes through the Two Rivers properties (Courtesy of the Downeast Coastal Conservancy)
Runners on the Sunrise Trail that passes through the Two Rivers properties.
(Photo courtesy of the Downeast Coastal Conservancy)

UMM is using the funds to develop opportunities for student research and service work in partnership with the Downeast Coastal Conservancy’s Two Rivers Project, an effort to conserve more than 1,000 acres along Middle River and the Machias River. The Two Rivers Conservation Area will be open to the public and managed as community forest and recreation lands and as an outdoor classroom for experiential learning.

Four courses in a wide range of disciplines have been designed to take on pieces of the project that will include mapping the properties, studying water quality, and producing educational materials for visitors.

A first-year seminar course, Space and Place, will have students conducting GPS and mapping activities, including the creation of climate vulnerability maps. In another course, Digital Video/Downeast Documentary, students will produce video vignettes of important ecological and historical facts related to the properties that can be accessed by scanning QR, or Quick Response, codes with a mobile device. Students in the Environmental Issues course will produce informational materials, also accessible on mobile devices, to educate visitors on the connections between landscape features and water quality, such as why marshlands are important for maintaining good water quality and what would happen if they were destroyed.

According to DCC Executive Director Tom Boutureira, the partnership with UMM aligns perfectly with the organization’s goal of providing environmental education opportunities as part of the Two Rivers Project.

“From the outset of the Two Rivers Project we wanted to engage community members, local schools, and UMM students in applied learning,” said Boutureira. “Climate change and water quality are significant issues facing coastal communities around the world but we often lack critical information for decision making. The results from this partnership will assist my organization with our management planning and will provide valuable tools and data to the Machias Valley communities.”

Team members from UMM who have been designing the courses for the partnership are William Otto, associate professor of chemistry; Tora Johnson, director of the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Service Center and instructor in environmental sciences; Uriah Anderson, assistant professor of psychology; Lisa Athearn, assistant professor of documentary film; and Chad Everett, sustainability coordinator.

The other Maine schools selected in the competitive proposal process were Eastern Maine Community College, Kaplan University, Maine College of Art, Saint Joseph’s College, Southern Maine Community College, Unity College, University of Maine at Farmington, University of New England, and the University of Southern Maine.

Established in 1994 and hosted at Bates College, Maine Campus Compact is a statewide coalition of 17 college and university presidents working to build strong communities and a more just democratic society by developing students’ citizenship and problem solving skills through community-based learning. More than 15,000 student volunteers at MCC member campuses provide some 1.6 million hours of service annually, with an economic impact of more than $25 million a year. MCC is an affiliate state office of Campus Compact, which includes almost 1,200 college and university presidents in 34 states.

The EPA’s Environmental Education (EE) Sub-grants Program is a competitive grant program that supports EPA’s efforts to increase public awareness and knowledge about environmental issues and provide participants in EE grant-funded projects the skills necessary to make informed environmental decisions and to take responsible actions toward the environment.

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