High School Students Help Collect Snowpack Data for Research Initiative

About 300 students at 13 Maine high schools are collecting data on Maine’s snowpack to feed into a national database tapped by scientists.

The project is part of the Acadia Learning Program, a joint venture of the University of Maine’s Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions, UMaine’s School of Forest Resources and the Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park.

The Acadia Learning Program has been in place since 2007 and has included research on mercury concentrations in dragonfly larvae that has expanded to 50 national parks and schools throughout the Northeast.

The snowpack project is collecting data not available elsewhere, program coordinators say. Though the National Weather Service and U.S. Geological Survey record snowpack measurements, they only do so in open areas, while Acadia Learning Program students can compile data from forested areas.

The students measure depth, snow-water equivalent and duration of snowpack, plus additional datasets based on their interests.

“Students develop background understanding about weather and climate, create hypotheses, develop a collection strategy, collect data and analyze them,” says Sarah Nelson, an associate research professor at the Mitchell Center and UMaine’s School of Forest Resources, as well as the principal investigator of the snowpack project. “We discovered that students learned a lot through hands-on field investigation and authentic data collection and analysis.”

More about this project is online.