Working as a teacher at Maine Coast Semester at Chewonki is a melding of my love of and interest in the more than human, natural world, and my equally keen interest in working with young adults. Throughout my professional life, starting as a student at College of the Atlantic, I’ve worked at the nexus of humans and the organisms with whom we share this planet. I am especially enthralled with marine organisms and ecosystems, and I was fortunate enough as an undergraduate to study whales in the Gulf of Maine and Magellanic penguins in Argentina. This was followed by many years working both on research projects and as a naturalist on expedition ships to Antarctica, the Amazon, and the Arctic.
I studied humpback whales from a wooden sailing ship in Newfoundland, right whales from Cessna aircraft off North Florida, and ultimately found my way to working on expedition ships. Working as a naturalist, I was able to collect data for the Antarctica humpback whale project as well as data on penguin populations for Oceanites. The essence of this work- building connections between humans and other life forms- is a core aspect of what I bring to Chewonki. With our students, we study organisms, not cells or molecules.
Our class is a rare opportunity for high school students to delve into ecology in situ. We build understanding through immersive experiences. We get wet in the tide pools, inhale the smells of the forest, feel the quaking of the bog, climb the mountains and, infamously, get muddy in the salt marsh. Natural curiosity awakens in our students and they ask the questions, they are motivated to learn more. Our world is full of wonder, and as we probe the contents of a carnivorous pitcher plant in a bog, measure towering eastern white pines, or study marine plankton drawn from our estuary, our students develop a keen sense of appreciation for the natural world. The Maine coast is our teacher and I am very much a guide and also a fellow learner.
From my (non-Chewonki) home on Mount Desert Island, I continue to work with whales in my summers and most recently have been working in the Gulf of Maine and the Gulf of St. Lawrence on right and humpback whales for Allied Whale and the New England Aquarium. I recently worked as a marine naturalist visiting islands with nesting seabirds, including puffins, and lately, I have been learning a LOT about seaweeds and mushrooms!
What Brought Me to Chewonki?
I was happily working at Mount Desert Island High School, where I had developed a computer science program and coached robotics. However, the chance to teach at Maine Coast Semester at Chewonki proved irresistible. I relish the opportunity to work closely with students and devoted colleagues as we build this extraordinary, nature-focused, educational experience.
B.A. in Human Ecology, College of the Atlantic
M.S. in Teaching, University of Maine
Movement of a humpback whale from Abrolhos Bank, Brazil to South Georgia (Antarctic Area II)(2006)
Student Understanding of Error and Variability in Primary Science Communication (University of Maine, MST thesis, 2009)
Parent-chick communication in the Magellanic penguin (Speniscus magellanicus) (College of the Atlantic undergraduate thesis, 1990)