Science in our National Parks: 5 places where, and why, scientists work

Part 3 of 5: Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park is located on a small rugged island in the Gulf of Maine, and is only a few nautical miles away from Nova Scotia, Canada. Although the park occupies only a small portion of Mt. Desert Island, extreme tides in the Atlantic Ocean mean that the park grows and retracts with high and low tide, revealing tide pools and shallows at more than 10 ft. The parks world renowned coastal habitat is easily accessible and close to major metropolitan areas such as Bangor, ME.  The park’s nickname, The First Eastern National Park, suggests its historical and cultural significance. Acadia National Park was designated as a  national park in the early 20th century, but its importance stretches past the colonization of North America to nearly 5,000 years ago, when Native American populations subsisted off the coast’s abundant natural resources and fisheries. Now, Maine’s coast is home to the majority of its population, endangering the timeless resources and history of the park.  Acadia National Park is also home to scientific studies that hope to understand the effects from human settlements within its proximity.


Anthropogenic effects from settlement and development of lands often spill over into the park. Pollution in the Bay of Fundy and in the Gulf of Maine introduces mercury and other heavy metals into the food chain. Depleted and over utilized fisheries unbalance marine food webs and endanger economies. Light pollution alters the life cycles of nocturnal and light-sensitive species. One major ongoing study hopes to understand how anthropogenic light pollution affects the parks habitats and ecology, including that of the Peregrine falcon, and other small mammals such field mice, which are an important food source for the falcon.


Light pollution is a major problem within and outside of the park. Worldwide, night skies are changing while encroached habitats are increasingly marginalized. I personally believe that this environmental problem is often overlooked and underestimated, perhaps because humans have become so accustomed to lights at night. Light pollution does not seem to be treated as a major problem because its effects are largely unmeasured. It makes sense that light pollution in coastal areas would interfere with marine mammals and other species. Darkness is an important factor in nocturnal animal’s life cycles. To learn more about the park, and light pollution, follow this link.



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