Concurrent Sessions

Following is a partial list of proposed sessions for the 2020 conference. Additional sessions will be added as information becomes available. Please subscribe to our News & Events email list for regular conference updates.

Session A. Local Solutions to Global Sustainability Challenges
Co-Chairs: Lydia Horne, Ecology and Environmental Sciences, University of Maine Orono; Alyssa Soucy, School of Forest Resources, University of Maine Orono

The world is undergoing rapid socio-ecological challenges that are locally experienced in unique ways. There is no “one size fits all” approach to complex sustainability solutions. In Maine we are dealing with a multitude of changes related to our terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and the livelihoods that depend on these resources, as well as challenges and opportunities related to socio-demographic shifts, and climate change. As Maine faces a diversity of socio-ecological changes there is a need for stakeholder-driven research that informs decision-making and adaptation. Transdisciplinary teams of researchers, community leaders, policy and decision-makers, business owners, and non-profits are needed to develop locally relevant and contextually specific solutions that are feasible to implement at the community level. The focus of this session will be on transdisciplinary research efforts that foster collaboration and/or understanding across stakeholder groups to develop innovative strategies for addressing the complex sustainability problems that Maine is currently facing. Special consideration will be given to proposals that use participatory methods to engage with stakeholder groups.

Session B. Maine Lakes: Climate Change Impacts and Adaptations
Co-Chairs: Amanda Gavin, FB Environmental; Margaret Mills, FB Environmental; Rachel Hovel, University of Maine, Farmington; Ben Peierls, Lakes Environmental Association

Lakes are often considered sentinel ecosystems, in that they respond rapidly to regional environmental change. As the lowest point in the catchment, lakes integrate inputs from the surrounding watershed, so changes in lake biological and physical properties act as “canaries in the coal mine” and reflect changes occurring in the climate, atmosphere, and surrounding terrestrial ecosystems. Ongoing research has demonstrated that Maine lakes are experiencing climate change through changes in water temperature and clarity, duration of ice cover, invasive plant populations, algal blooms, zooplankton composition, and more. This session invites talks that creatively address how Maine lakes are responding to climate change, what makes lake ecosystems less resilient to climate change, and what adaptations, both natural and anthropogenic, can mitigate impacts of climate change.

Session C. Advancing Understanding of Lake, River and Coastal Marine System Dynamics Using Environmental DNA
Co-Chairs: Kristina Cammen, School of Marine Sciences, University of Maine; John Kocik, NOAA Fisheries, Northeast Fisheries Science Center; Heather Leslie, Darling Marine Center, School of Marine Sciences, University of Maine

Environmental DNA (eDNA) is a tool of recent interest, rapid development, and promising potential for monitoring and management of aquatic ecosystems. This approach is built on the premise that organisms slough cells containing DNA into the water they inhabit and we can extract that DNA from a water sample without ever handling, or even seeing, the organism. eDNA approaches have been used successfully in diverse aquatic ecosystems to detect species presence and characterize biodiversity. There is also growing interest in further pushing the boundaries of eDNA’s potential for quantitative assessment of species abundance and distribution, as well as characterization of genetic diversity of individuals in a system. These new approaches are appealing to scientists and managers alike, who hope to use eDNA to sample populations and ecosystems in a non-invasive, cost-efficient manner. At this session, we will invite researchers exploring some of the emerging eDNA approaches to surveying aquatic diversity to share lessons learned from past successes and failures. We will invite managers to speak on the ways in which eDNA approaches are readily, or not so readily, integrated into current management frameworks for sustainably managing Maine’s coastal resources from headwaters to the Gulf of Maine.

Session D. Citizen Science: Mobilizing public participation in research
Co-Chairs: Sarah Madronal, Downeast Salmon Federation; Molly Payne Wynne, The Nature Conservancy

Citizen science is the practice of public participation and collaboration in scientific research to increase scientific knowledge. From water quality to snow pack to sea-run rainbow smelt, citizen science is a powerful scientific tool that can be used to advocate for conservation or sustainable harvest and can mobilize as well as educate the next generation of natural stewards. Citizen science has been gaining momentum as a scientifically rigorous way to collect data and Maine continues to be at the forefront of this endeavor.

Session E. Activating the Individual – Overcoming apathy and overwhelming feelings of inefficacy to inspire action and purpose within individuals
Chair: Shawn Mercer, singer/songwriter, activist, public speaker

This session will explore a variety of perspectives all focused on combating inaction. Session speakers will look to inspire individuals through science, philosophy, psychology, art, and spirituality. We recognize the ability of individuals to create powerful change, as well as the power of numbers in establishing movements that overcome the status quo.

Session F. The Impact of Maine’s Educational Institutions – Community Partnerships and Sustainability in the Curriculum
Co-Chairs: Douglas Reusch, University of Maine Farmington; Linda Silka, University of Maine

Working together rather than separately is one of the most important steps that can be taken in addressing environmental and sustainability issues. Maine has begun many important initiatives in bringing groups together to address these issues through partnerships with communities and innovative curriculum approaches. In this session, we explore how institutions can build partnerships with communities and learn from them; how students at all levels can be engaged in these partnerships; how institutions of higher education can develop innovative sustainability curriculum; and how creative collaborations among diverse stakeholders can contribute to climate/sustainability awareness and action.

We invite submissions to this session that address the following topics:

      • Strategies and programs that build partnerships between campuses and communities working on challenging and complex environmental issues;
      • Successes and challenges of new and on-going collaborative environmental programs;
      • Development of innovative sustainability curricula in educational institutions;
      • Examples of creative collaborations among diverse stakeholders that contribute to climate/sustainability awareness and action.

Session G. PFAS and Emerging Contaminants
Co-Chairs: Charlie Culbertson, U.S. Geological Survey; Jason Sorenson, U.S. Geological Survey

Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances include a wide range of compounds that have been used in a wide range of domestic and industrial applications since the 1950. They are very persistent in the environment, highly mobile, bioaccumulate and have been linked to several negative health outcomes such as immunotoxicity and cancer. Other contaminants that are poorly understood include compounds associated with wastewater effluent such as pharmaceuticals and personal healthcare products (PPHCPs) and endocrine disruptors. Microplastics and nanoparticles are examples of other two other groups of ‘emerging’ contaminants. These substances represent a large and diverse group of pollutants that urgently require more work to refine analytical methods, quantify sources, develop transport models, and a better understanding of human and ecological health risk and exposure pathways.

Session H. All About Arsenic: Eliminating arsenic exposure in Maine and New Hampshire
Co-Chairs: Jane E. Disney, MDI Biological Laboratory; Karen Bieluch, Dartmouth College

Most people in Maine and New Hampshire derive their drinking water from private wells. Often these groundwater reserves are contaminated with arsenic, in many cases far exceeding the federal EPA limit of 10 ppb, making exposure to arsenic one of the most pressing public health issues in both states.

  • Maine and New Hampshire have among the highest per capita reliance on private wells for drinking water in the U.S. at 56% and 40% respectively, representing approximately 725,000 people on private well water in Maine and 536,000 in New Hampshire.
  • Private wells are largely unregulated, and the burden is on homeowners to test their well water and mitigate any health hazards. Unfortunately, the vast majority of well owners are not aware of the arsenic problem and do not test their wells.

These facts are especially problematic since numerous studies associate exposure to inorganic arsenic with adverse health effects, including cancer of the bladder and other organs, diabetes, heart disease, reproductive and developmental problems, and cardiovascular, pulmonary, immunological, neurological, reproductive, and endocrine problems.

This session will include a panel presentation and discussion of current efforts and various approaches to addressing the issue of arsenic in well water.

Scientists studying health impacts of arsenic, state agencies and community health organizations working on increasing well water testing and identifying areas of concern, K-12 teachers and university and college professors engaging students in well water monitoring and arsenic-related research are all invited to participate. Part of the inspiration for this session grew from our work on an NIGMS Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) funded project in which teachers and scientist partners are working collaboratively, engaging students as citizen scientists in a well-water monitoring effort to advance public health goals while developing data literacy skills. Updates on this effort will be shared and opportunities for networking explored.

Session I. Agricultural Land Reclamation in Maine: Expanding local food systems; protecting water quality
Chair: Andrew Marshall, Maine Farmland Trust

Emerging evidence demonstrating environmental, public health, and economic development benefits of re-localizing Maine’s agricultural economy and food system has catalyzed lively conversations about land use in the agriculture, conservation, and resource-protection communities. The New England Food Vision, for example, calls for a goal of 50% regional food self-reliance by 2060; and estimates that Maine will need to convert an additional 10% of its land to agricultural production to achieve this. In the process, many thousands of acres could undergo land use change, most likely from forest to field, with potential ecological implications for water quality, carbon cycles, and wildlife habitat.

This session will discuss such topics as identifying and assessing land suitability for reclamation, water quality, climate, and habitat considerations, regulatory guidance, best practices for least-impact land reclamation, and post-reclamation management.