Category magazine articles

gloved hand holding stuffed downy woodpecker specimen

Searching for Spelman’s Birds

In the 1880s, a group of Harvard students known as the Champlain Society spent their summers on Mount Desert Island documenting flora and fauna, the first comprehensive surveys of the area’s natural history. Their Ornithology Department was led by Henry Spelman, a lifelong lover of birds. His story, and the search for the bird specimens […]

Why we love the ocean

The sand, smoothed by the tide, glitters with flecks of mica and quartz. The beach ends at an outcropping of rocks draped with seaweed and rough with barnacles. Tidal pools of seawater glisten with life: rusty splotches and pink-crusted algae, leaves of sea lettuce, baby fishes hiding in miniature caves. Beyond, the Atlantic Ocean roars. […]

Ice Age survivors: a tale of two land-locked fish

Maine lakes are home to two evolutionary wonders of the animal kingdom, Arctic char and landlocked salmon, related species of fish that exist in very few places. They descend from a common ancestor that lived millions of years ago. Evolution took them on diverging pathways during repeated ice ages. The char stayed farther north, swimming […]

Fish return to a restored Penobscot

Between the head of tide above Bangor to where it widens into the bay at Searsport, the Penobscot River shifts from a flowing freshwater waterway banked by cedar and pine to a brackish, wave-lapped marsh with a rocky shoreline. In this estuary, salt concentrations fluctuate as wind and tide push water and sediments back and […]

Collective Quarterly

I revisited Adam Campbell and North Haven Oyster Company for Issue 5 of the magazine Collective Quarterly. The Collective is a media and publishing company dedicated to documenting the life and work of those living purposefully. Each issue of the magazine is devoted to a single place, with photography and true stories by artists who […]

The Secret Life of Eels

OTHER MIGRATORY FISH get more attention than the American eel. Salmon is the king of fish; the alewife, the fish that feeds all; shad, the founding fish. Sturgeon are dinosaurs; smelt, the ice shack fish. Yet, historically, the eel was more widespread and abundant than any of these in the northeast United States. The undeserved […]

handwritten notebooks

The Champlain Society Transcriptions

In the Spring 2015 issue of Friends of Acadia Journal, Maureen Fournier, a seasonal ranger for Acadia, and I describe the experience of reading and digitizing the nineteenth-century notebooks of the Champlain Society. From their notes, we can trace their movements across the island as they collected specimens, made observations, and talked to local residents […]

The President’s Salmon in The Boston Globe

A preview of the forthcoming The President’s Salmon can be found in today’s Boston Globe Magazine. Politics, preservation, and salmon fishing: an annual rite of the Penobscot River sporting world brought a Maine angler and the year’s first Atlantic salmon to the president’s doorstep.

Maine’s Wild Oysters

Scientists are studying isolated oyster grounds in Maine’s Sheepscot River that may date back to the last ice age. Meanwhile, as the aquaculture industry has grown and coastal water temperatures have warmed, cultured oysters have begun to multiply on their own elsewhere, particularly in the brackish waters of the Damariscotta River. Both kinds of “wild” […]

Influenced by Nature

In May 1871, Charles William Eliot had been president of Harvard College barely two years, and a widower just as long. He needed a break, for himself and his two young sons, a “thorough vacation” in the open air, as he wrote to a friend. He found means in Jessie, a 33-foot sloop, and began […]