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.



Putting your story on the map

Anyone who has ever been to a college lecture hall knows the pain of sitting through a boring, black and white Powerpoint talk. It is almost as though the professor intentionally made his slides bland and his voice monotonous in an effort to lull students into a drowsiness from which no learning could possibly take place. To the rescue comes ESRI Story Maps, an interactive way to tell a story. The free online platform contains six different story map layouts, including the spyglass format, which allows authors to zoom in on particular regions and the swipe format, which allows readers to swipe back and forth over a scene, changing the background information. Unlike ESRI’s more famous GIS software, which often requires purchasers to participate in multi-week training sessions, Story Maker is easy to use and completely free.


The online portal can be accessed at


To begin, choose a Story Map App. Options include Map Tour, Map Journal, Map Series, Swipe, Spyglass, and Basic. The Map Tour is perfect for guiding audiences through a sequence of places with photos, such as highlighting specific points where volcanoes have erupted in the past twenty years. The Map Journal acts almost like a Powerpoint, with floating panels perfect for an in-depth description. The Map Series is similar to the Map Tour, but allows for more descriptive text, rather than simply a photo gallery. The Swipe allows readers to swipe back and forth to see a before and after, such as regions of rainforest lost to deforestation. The Spyglass feature allows readers to zoom in on particular regions of interest, such as Eastern Europe, and see overlying before and after maps. Finally, the Basic map allows for only one map, with simple text options that is perfect for an infographic or easy to understand maps. All formats use the same basic editing procedures.

initial choosing

Follow these links for some amazing examples of each style:

Map Tour:


Map Journal:


Map Series:









After choosing your format style, the Story Maker will prompt you to name your creation. Then it is time to add photos and content to make your presentation shine! From here on out, the descriptions are for the Map Journal, but the editing procedure is nearly the same for all Story Map types.


The editor page has two major sides, the Main Stage (or background) and Side Panel (or text box). There are two varieties of Side Panels you can choose from: Floating Panel or Side Panel. The Floating Panel is a semi-transparent black text box that resides in the right side of the screen. Photos added to the Main Stage in this setting may be partially hidden by the text Panel. The Side Panel is a white text box on the far left of the screen. It does not cover any images added to the background.


Step 1 is to add Main Stage Content. This can be a map, images, video, or a webpage. The maps come from ArcGIS database and are extremely high quality. Images can be imported from Flickr, Facebook, Picasa, or a website (URL). Make sure if you add photos from a website that they are available for reprint (Creative Commons) and that the web address ends in .jpg or .png. Video can be imported from YouTube or Vimeo. Finally, you can copy and paste over a webpage URL and the webpage will appear as your background.


main stage content



The images you choose can be modified to fit your background in several ways: fill (takes up the entire background), fit (stretches the image), center (will leave a lot of white around the image), or custom (dictate how many pixels you want the image to take up).


Finally, you can add text to the Side Panel or Floating Panel. The camera button allows you to add multimedia such as images, infographics, or even movie clips.

side panel

That’s all there is to it! You can add additional pages with the Add Section button at the bottom of the Side Panel and rearrange them with the Organize button.

If you need additional help, ArcGIS has a Support tab with FAQ’s, a User Forum, and Help and Support with Experts tab. They also offer training videos that you can watch before making your own Story Map.



A World Without Water Bottles

What if there was a biodegradable water bottle that you could also eat? Skipping Rocks Lab, a startup based in London founded by three scientists, made this idea a reality and created Ooho! Ooho is basically a clear gel bag made of calcium chloride (an ionic compound of calcium and chlorine) and brown algae made through a process known as spherification.  Spherification is a technique that shapes liquids into spheres with a thin, double membrane with an intermembrane space that keeps the water on the inside clean and hygienic. While the gel sphere is being formed, the water has to be kept frozen as ice in order to keep the ingredients of the gel inside the membrane and out of the water later.

The Ooho was considered innovative enough to win an award at the 2014 Lexus Design Challenge, and Time magazine said “This edible water blob could replace plastic water bottles.” Even more amazing than Ooho’s ability to reduce the number of plastic bottles piling up in the landfills is the cost of producing the Ooho costs two whole cents to produce. The industrial design scientists responsible for Ooho decided to license the recipe and instructions under Creative Commons which means that anyone can replicate it for free. The reason behind making the recipe accessible with Creative Commons was so others could make the Ooho at home to further improve the recipe.

However, this innovative water device has its limitations that have raised some concerns. Many people think the Ooho will pop in a backpack or purse. Others are concerned about what happens after you pop the membrane? In the promotional video the water seems to spill all over the table which means that drinking from the Ooho would be somewhat messy. Besides the mess, once you drink from the Ooho it is not like a water bottle where you can drink some water then put the cap back on. Some others also wondered how the membrane would taste since its only ingredients seem to be calcium chloride and brown algae, so would someone even want to consume it?

While the Ooho may have its limitations it is still in the early stages of development. Thanks to the Creative Commons licensing of the recipe, some of these limitations could be solved. Then the Ooho really could replace plastic water bottles everywhere. For now though, I have signed up to be beta tester for the Ooho and will continue to use my reusable water bottle until further notification about Ooho!

By Colleen Muprhy



An Infographic on Save the Mermaids

Assignment 7- I did an infographic on a small non-profit organization called Save the Mermaids. Their goal is to educate the public as well as youth on the importance of keeping our oceans clean and reducing pollution. Because the foundation is concentrated in Santa Barbara, California, it is commonly overlooked for their accomplishments; including several beach clean-ups, creating interactive youth programs and promoting sustainable living. For this reason I chose to create an infographic on the organization, in order to increase awareness.

-Greer E Darden


A Story Map: Visual Storytelling

Visual storytelling is an effective medium to communicate your unique “story” and connect with your targeted audience. Visuals can explain your research, issue, or cause and capture an audience’s attention without being inundated with text. Examples of visual storytelling include photojournalism, infographics and story maps.

Esri Story Maps allow you to combine text, multimedia and images to create a customizable, interactive map. This platform encourages you to avoid heavy jargon, and instead use accessible language, providing clarity and simplicity. The Esri Story Map application provides a variety templates and tutorials to tell your story. From the Story Map Journals to a Story Map Series, each unique program allows you to create a page that is appropriate for your user experience.

For our assignment, we chose to use the Story Map Shortlist version to tell our Fox Finders in Baton Rouge project. Fox Finders of Baton Rouge is a community social media project where a Louisiana State University (LSU) research team, consisting of Dr. Linda Hooper Bui and Ashennur Soyal, is investigating urban fox populations in Baton Rouge. To illustrate the data they have collected on social media, we developed an online, interactive story map to highlight the foxes located in the Baton Rouge community. Using the Esri Shortlist Story Map template, we designed a unique story map to include pictures, locations and eyewitness accounts of foxes located in the Baton Rouge area. Our Shortlist Story Map successfully promoted citizen science by easily connecting residents to science occurring in their environment and efficiently mapping many foxes in Baton Rouge. Check it out here.

The Shortlist Map is one of the most customizable forms of the story map templates, but it is also one of the more challenging maps to bring to fruition. The Shortlist lets you organize your points of interest into tabs and allows the user to navigate and click on various places in the map. Compared to the other Story Map templates, you must assemble the places you want in your map as point layers. Each point layer will be entered as a separate tab in your template where you can include information such as name, location, geographical coordinates, pictures, etc. To get your map up and running, you install the template onto another web server or publicly accessible website and configure the template to point to the website. Below I summarized the basic steps to create a shortlist story map (see infographic) and for an additional detailed tutorial, see our power point presentation.

How To Create A Story Map

From my Story Map experience, I found the Esri Story Map platform very user-friendly. However, the Shortlist template is a much more challenging and rigorous story map to create without any prior Story Map experience. Despite the online step list and tutorial packet, we researched for additional online tutorials to help us create our map. And even called the Esri Story Map helpline before we could get our final map up and running.

My largest Story Map takeaway message is that it is crucial to make sure your maps are clear, simple and user-friendly. Eliminate unnecessary detail and jargon, and instead focus on what is necessary to disseminate your map’s message. The more nonessential elements you remove, the more likely you are able to communicate an effective story and capture your audience’s attention. Overall, the Esri Story Map Program, specifically the Shortlist template, is an efficient, user-friendly way to present data in an interactive format.

By Kristin Foss

Salty Girl Seafood: A Sustainable Fisheries Entrepreneurship

When you are out eating sushi or baking your favorite fish at home, do you give any thought to where exactly that fish came from? Or how it was harvested from the ocean? With over 55% of global fish populations at levels of overexploitation and 128 million tons of fish removed annually, the traceability of fish and fish products is critical for enforcement and the overall sustainability of these fisheries. Well, two young entrepreneurs are working to drive a change in the seafood industry and influence small-scale fisheries across the world in the form of Salty Girl Seafood Inc.

This sustainable seafood company develops traceable, chef-quality seafood that encourages sustainable fishing practices and good stewardship of our world’s oceans. Headquartered in Santa Barbara, California, Salty Girl Seafood was established in 2014 after founders Norah Eddy and Laura Johnson graduated from the UCSB Bren School of Environmental Science and Management. “Laura and I started dreaming up the idea of Salty Girl on our very first day of grad school – the day we met,” said Norah Eddy, co-founder of Salty Girl Seafood Inc. “We were (and are!) passionate about finding solutions to the problems facing our world’s oceans, particularly fisheries. Salty Girl was a way for us to put our creative energy into finding such solutions.”

Indonesia Fishing Vessel Crew Agency

Sustainable fisheries worldwide is crucial to replenish our oceans and maintain our resources. Photo Credit:Indonesia Fishing Crew Vessel Agency/ Flickr

Salty Girl Seafood Inc. acts as the middleman between the fishermen and the seafood distributors and restaurants. All seafood is purchased directly from the fishermen, allowing the company to have complete control over the supply chain. “This makes traceability fairly straightforward for us at this point in time,” said Eddy. “And traceability is inextricably linked to sustainability, [and] this is key to what we do.” Salty Girl Seafood Inc. is able to provide information about where each seafood product was caught, how it was harvested, and by which fisherman. This unique business creates a transparent relationship between the fishermen harvesting the fish and the public consumers.

Salty Girl Seafood Inc. strives to provide “Sustainable, Fresh, and Simple” seafood to its customers. And they believe cooking should be easy! Initially, Salty Girl Seafood started out by providing quality, traceable fish to chefs at restaurants. But recently, the company expanded to grocery stores and online retailers. Each package is pre-portioned and pre-marinated, with full cooking instructions, and details about the particular species, harvest method, fishing vessel, and sustainability of the fisheries. Items include black cod with sweet and smoky teriyaki and rockfish with a garlic chili rub. And each pre-packaged filet retails around $9.99.

Wes Eggins.jpg

Photo Credit: Wes Eggins/ Flickr

Currently, these filet packages are only sold in about a dozen stores in California, but they are expanding to a few medium sized chains in the next few weeks, said Eddy. “We are also in talks with a few retailers outside of California, and have several European companies excited to distribute our products as well!” If you aren’t able to purchase these filets in store, you can easily order a couple of smoked fish items online and have them shipped directly to your door.

Want to know even more about where your fish comes from? Head over to the Salty Girl Seafood Inc. website to a plethora of information on who exactly caught your fish and their fishing history, what type of vessel and sustainable practices captured your fish, and details about the specific type of fish you are consuming.

This unique entrepreneurship is gaining popularity and making a name for the company in the sustainable fisheries world. Recently, Salty Girl Seafood Inc. received the Strongest Market Opportunity award at the Fish 2.0 International Seafood Competition Finals, a business competition that connects sustainable fisheries to investors. Out of 170 companies that participated in the competition, Salty Girl Seafood was one of the six companies that received top scores in all the judging categories. “Our team worked really hard to prepare for the competition, and we are honored to be recognized, internationally, by the industry,” said Eddy.

What’s next for Salty Girl Seafood? “Next up is growth! Always growth,” exclaims Eddy. “We are looking to really expand here in California, and gearing up towards a national rollout in the near future.” So before you order that sushi roll, or pick out your favorite fish at the market, think about the traceability and sustainability of the seafood itself. Or leave all the work to Salty Girl Seafood Inc. and pick up one of their tasty fillets!

If you want to learn more and stay updated on Salty Girl Seafood, follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

By Kristin Foss

Youth Oasis Children’s Shelter communication research

For an entire semester I’ve had an opportunity to participate in a public relations service learning class where I partnered with students to create a PR firm that put on a campaign for a nonprofit in the Baton Rouge area. We were assigned the nonprofit Youth Oasis Children’s Shelter. We conducted research on the nonprofit’s past success in communication and awareness.

Our research can be found in our Youth Oasis Research Report

In order to collect primary research, we created an online survey that we sent to individuals in our desired key public across Baton Rouge.

From the survey, we attempted to discover the awareness and attitudes Youth Oasis’s key publics have towards the nonprofit, as well as what people think of when they hear “Youth Oasis.”

Our results have shown us that most people are way off-base when it comes to what the nonprofit is and what it does. We decided that we need to focus on the nonprofits mission in order to correct those views.

The following word clouds depict what the public thinks of when they hear “Youth Oasis” as well as what nonprofits come to mind according to our research.

Our research proves that the Youth Oasis Children’s shelter lacks the necessary community awareness in order for it to thrive. Upon receiving these findings, we developed a fundraiser event to increase its awareness and funding for the shelter in hopes that its image and message would be accepted in the community.


We raised a total of $5,700 for the nonprofit and had more than 200 people attend the event. We plan to send a post event survey to measure the effect on awareness the event created.

To learn more about the campaign and event success visit our blog post titled, “Thrive’s overall experience and service-learning.” You can watch our group’s evaluation video here.