Stopping to Smell the Flowers in Acadia National Park

  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.

Acadia National Park is a unique and beautiful ecosystem located on the coast of Maine. The park is known for its beautiful spring a summer wildflowers. However, many non-native species also co-exist and out-compete the native plants. My project consisted of visiting the park and photographing and filming many of these native and non-native species. I also interviewed researchers and park staff about the greatest issues facing the park and how they deal with them. From this, I will produce a blog and short documentary about the plants in the park.

 

  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.

Before this I had assumed I was not a creative person, and that I was not very good at identifying and describing plant species. I’ve always had problems remembering the names of plants and this is always something I have wanted to get better at. This project helped expose that I am able to have a creative vision and that when I put my mind to it, I can identify and describe many of the species in an area. As a result of the project, I was also able to become much more confident at using the camera I purchased to complete it. As I began the trip, many of the photos and videos I took were low quality and not worth sharing. However, as I progressed I became much better at adjusting the settings of the camera, focusing and holding it steady. I still have a long way to go as a documentarian but I am happy with the progress I made at my first attempt.

 

  1. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.

It was extremely impactful to me to meet with so many people involved in the park on a daily basis. I had the opportunity to participate in a restoration project on Cadillac Mountain, where I met park rangers, researchers, and community members. Before visiting the park, I didn’t have a true understanding of what it was like to manage and study a national park. The variety of perspectives and interests each person had when I talked to them about the park was extremely interesting, and not something I would have expected.

Going into the trip, my perception of Acadia was as a park vastly overrun by deadly invasive species, choking the biodiversity and limiting its natural beauty. What I found was an extraordinarily successful partnership between management, researchers, and community members who had a remarkably holistic view of the park. This symbiosis resulted in an ecosystem in which the non-native species were monitored and controlled, and native plants where protected and prevalent. In fact, for the majority of my trip I didn’t even see any invasives. Nothing like the monocultures of honeysuckle and reed canary grass I am so used to seeing.

Overall, I felt extremely grateful for the time my interviewees took to speak and educate me on the park. The ecosystem of Acadia transforms from ocean and intertidal, to forest and wetland to small mountains, only in the span of a few miles. Seeing that environment for the first time was very impactful and I am very excited to share what I saw. It is my hope that other people will be excited by what I have seen, and decide to visit the park themselves.

 

  1. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.

Personally, any opportunity to visit a new park and see a novel ecosystem will always be valuable to me. I am extremely grateful to have spent a few days in such a beautiful place and take some time away from the bustle of work and the city. Looking ahead, I hope to continue to visit such places and see plenty more parks and plants.

Professionally, this project helps mainly with my communication skills. As someone interested in pursuing a career in science, communicating my research and the work done by others is very important. This project helped me help decide the best way to interpret information from professionals and disseminate it to an audience. Forming stimulating questions for conducting interviews was a new experience for me and one that I can carry on into my professional career. Learning to use a camera to document a research project is another important skill that has already come in handy for my academic and professional life.

 

Here are some pictures from my trip:

 

My blog will eventually be available from this link (not currently though!):