Damariscotta River Estuary Community Science Project

In 2019, in partnership with the Joint Shellfish Committee of the Towns of Damariscotta and Newcastle, the Leslie Lab group initiated a community science program. The goal of this program is to create robust social and ecological data to support ecosystem-based management at the local scale and specifically in the Damariscotta River Estuary in midcoast Maine.

Together with students at Lincoln Academy and the University of Maine, shellfish harvesters, and other citizens, we are engaged in data collection, interpretation and application that contributes to municipal shellfish management as well as a broader vision for sustaining this social-ecological system (SES).

Our work highlights the importance of local knowledge and history as well as the value of monitoring spatial and temporal variability in both the social and ecological domains. And, in keeping with Ostrom’s 2009 SES framework, we demonstrate how social science and ecological approaches can be integrated to generate fine-scale information; fill data gaps; support community-led management; and contribute to field methods that people with varied lived experiences and training can implement in a sustainable fashion.

To learn more about this work, check out the poster that PhD candidate Sarah Risley presented at the Ecological Society of America’s annual meeting in Portland, OR in August 2023 as well as the resources below.

Resources, in chronological order:

Pellowe, K. E. and H. M. Leslie. 2019. Current and historical trends in the shellfish resources of the upper Damariscotta River estuary. Final Report presented to the Selectmen of the Town of Damariscotta, Maine, 12.20.19.

Britsch, M. and H. M. Leslie. 2021. Damariscotta River: Research through Time. Storymap published July 2021.

Britsch, M. L., S. Risley, J. S. Stoll, and H. M. Leslie. 2021. State of the Damariscotta River Estuary Report: Local knowledge of trends in the shellfish resource & human activity in the Damariscotta River Estuary. Technical report prepared for Damariscotta-Newcastle Joint Shellfish Committee, UMaine Darling Marine Center, Walpole, Maine. 32 pp.

Britsch, M., S. Risley, J. Stoll, and H. M. Leslie. 2021. State of the Medomak River Estuary. Technical report prepared for Damariscotta-Newcastle Joint Shellfish Committee, UMaine Darling Marine Center, Walpole, Maine. 28 pp.

Risley, S. C., McMahan, M., Papi, A., Rolfe, C., Leslie, H. M., & Stoll, J. S. 2022. Community Science in the Damariscotta River Estuary: An Educational Exploration of Shellfish Ecology & Harvester Local Knowledge (Handbook) and (Appendices). University of Maine Darling Marine Center.

Leslie, H. M., M. L. Britsch, M. Cucuzza, K. E. Pellowe, S. Risley, J. S. Stoll. 2023. Managing for resilience of estuarine & coastal marine environments to climate change. Ch. 30, Climate Change & Estuaries. M. Kennish, H. Paerl, J. Croswell (eds). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press. pp. 603-18.

Risley, S. C. and H. M. Leslie. 2023. Damariscotta River Estuary Community Science Project: 2019-2023. Summary presented to the Joint Shellfish Committee of Damariscotta and Newcastle on 11.14.23 by SR, UMaine Darling Marine Center, Walpole, Maine. 2 pp. 

Leslie, H. M. What Gives Me Hope. In press, Maine Policy Review.

Risley, S. C., K. E. Pellowe, M. L. Britsch, M. M. White, H. M. Leslie. Accepted. Community science in support of ecosystem-based management: A case study from the Damariscotta River Estuary, Maine, USA. Maine Policy Review. 

For additional information on the ongoing work in the Damariscotta, see the Town of Damariscotta’s Joint Shellfish committee web page, including this summary of the community science methods and sites.