Sarah J. Nelson

Associate Research Professor in Watershed Biogeochemistry, Senator George J. Mitchell Center & School of Forest Resources, Ecology and Environmental Sciences

Member of the Maine RiSE Center

5710 Norman Smith Hall
(207) 581.3454
Email Sarah Nelson


  • Ph.D., Ecology and Environmental Sciences, University of Maine, 2007
  • M.S., Ecology and Environmental Sciences – Water Resources, University of Maine, 2002
  • B.A., Art History, Columbia University, NY (cum laude), 1994

Sarah J. Nelson CV, 2012

Formal Science Education, Citizen Science, and Outreach

Working with partners at the SERC Institute, I helped to develop a program called “Acadia Learning”. Acadia Learning is a joint effort of the Schoodic Education and Research Center (SERC) at Acadia National Park, the University of Maine, and Maine Sea Grant. The program brings scientists, teachers, and students together in partnerships that result in useful research and effective science education. The Bear Brook Watershed in Maine is now a focus of Acadia Learning projects, in addition to projects regarding mercury in dragonfly larvae and effect of culverts on aquatic invertebrate communities.

An important thread underlying the teacher and student research is science data literacy, with funded research evaluating teacher approaches and student comfort with data, and providing teacher professional development in several Maine schools and in special summer institutes such as the Teacher Data Literacy workshop at BIOGEOMON 2012. Acadia Learning is supported with funds from the Maine Department of Education, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and private donors.

In an effort to increase public awareness regarding the mercury issue, a citizen science project was expanded in 2012 to collect dragonfly larvae for mercury analysis in national parks. Working with the NPS-Air Resources Division, we are piloting this project in 14 national parks across the U.S. This citizen science project engages students, teachers, and visitors in national parks. Moreover, the project supports the “Call to Action,” the NPS Centennial Initiative, by connecting people to parks and advancing the educational mission.

I am pleased to be a cooperating scientist in the Old Town High School Collaborative Research program, a novel initiative that brings scientists into the school and where teachers and students conduct cutting-edge research. Using student-designed mesocosms in the lab, students in Ed Lindsey’s collaborative group are raising dragonfly larvae from eggs, and will study mercury accumulation as nymphs grow, and in different geochemical settings and feeding regimes.

I also worked with the Quebec Labrador Foundation and an advisory board including SERC Institute, Acadia National Park, and the Frenchman Bay Conservancy, among many others, to develop the prospectus and design for the Acadian Internship in Regional Conservation and Stewardship.

In the News:

In an article appearing in UMaine Today in Spring 2013, Sarah Nelson is using dragonfly larvae to monitor mercury contamination.

Sentinel species” article

Dragonflies as Bio-Sentinels” video on Youtube