Category Archives: Conservation

Strong Presence of Successful MCC Alumni at Unity College Environmental Career Fair

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MCC Training Coordinator Amie Daniels with Alumni Jackie Stratton now of Coastal Mountain Land Trust

The Maine Conservation Corps (MCC), an AmeriCorps program through the Maine Commission for Community Service, housed in the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry was thrilled to connect with an abundance of MCC Alumni who identified as students, teachers, community organization and nonprofit leaders at the Unity College Environmental Career Fair.

As an AmeriCorps initiative, MCC is part of a nation-wide effort to bring volunteerism and positive impact to communities throughout the US. When taking on a term of service, dedicated individuals who are 18 and older dedicate anywhere from 300-1700 hours of volunteer capacity to identified areas of need. Once someone begins their term of service, the ever expanding network of Alumni continues to grow and make valuable connections.

This network of past members was ever-present on Unity’s campus, as current MCC Training Coordinator, Amie Daniels, met with dozens of  MCC alumni having served as recent as 2016 all the way back through 1998. “We had set up our table of information and were excited to be present with so many Environmental enthusiasts and organizations around us.” Daniels remarked, “Further than that, we were thrilled to discover that the table right next to us was actually being represented by MCC alumni, Jackie Stratton, who had served as an Environmental Educator just a few years back.” Stratton is now the Stewardship Project Manager for the Coastal Mountains Land Trust and relates her acquired skills, efforts and successes of her current position to have stemmed from her service with MCC. Continue reading Strong Presence of Successful MCC Alumni at Unity College Environmental Career Fair

Successful Connections: MCC at the UMaine Orono Career Fair

The Maine Conservation Corps attended the University of Maine Orono Campus Career Fair on Wednesday, February 1st as one of over 150 employers ready to connect with students seeking summer internships, part-time exposure to an area of their studies, or full time employment to transition into society after graduation.

As the largest Career Fair in Maine, this all day event was made possible through the UMaine Orono campus Career Center, who organized, advertised and prepared students in all levels of their education path, to attend the employment event. The Career Center, a free and readily accessible resource for all Orono students, is open every day for ongoing efforts to produce confident, capable, student-lead successes toward their next steps.

Beginning as early as their freshman enrollment, the Career Center is made available and begins to build a connection as a skill-building support system for UMaine students. Through classroom presentations, an introduction to the various resources available at the Career Center is exposed with an open door policy for students to meet one on one with certified career counselors. Students are then able to create content for their resumes, participate in mock interviews and incorporate the feedback of their counselors to strengthen output, as they continue to meet, practice and target their efforts toward successfully connecting with employment opportunities. Continue reading Successful Connections: MCC at the UMaine Orono Career Fair

Volunteer Spotlight: Father-Daughter Team

We would like to spotlight Paul St. Pierre for his volunteer efforts with our Field Team! Paul’s daughter Autumn is a MCC Field Team member, and Paul decided to spend Fathers Day with Autumn’s team in the Moosehead Lake Region. The team had nothing but great things to say about him! He even brought food to share, which is always appreciated!

Here is what Paul had to say about his experience:

What was your favorite part about volunteering with our Field Team? There were so many things that I got to see, learn and be involved in.  If I were to pick my favorite it would be how all th1e people are so different, in so many ways, yet they functioned as one unit.  Each having their own tasks, yet helping others when they saw it was needed.

What project were you helping with?  I had the opportunity to assist Autumn with building a retaining wall.  Many, many tasks were involved in completing this project.  From finding the correct sized and shaped rocks, to locating mineral soil and transporting it back to the trail with the use of just some hand tools and some old dirt bags.  The duty of crushing the rocks with a mash hammer was by far the most time consuming part of building the retaining wall which gave me a greater appreciation for the many trails I have hiked in the State of Maine. I also had the opportunity to remove large rocks from the path and clear the corridor by pulling stumps with the team.

Why do you think the work MCC does is important?  Maine has many beauties and MCC is allowing more people to be able to explore and see what our great state has to offer.  Not only the work that MCC does with the trails is important but the team building and broadening the minds of the team members/volunteers will make our state a better place.  The experience provides members with life lessons that otherwise might never be learned.

How do you feel about Autumn serving in AmeriCorps with MCC?  I could not be more proud, this is a great organization and I think Autumn is great for AmeriCorps with MCC.  The skills that she is learning this summer will help her for the rest of her life and will be shared for generations.  She has built quite a fan base among our friends and family, always questioning how she is doing, how far they have made it on their trail and always wanting to know more about MCC.

Thank you Paul for all of your help! We appreciate your support, and couldn’t be happier to have Autumn on our team!

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Cat National News and the Maine Conservation Corps

Video by Maine Conservation Corps Member Dmitry Pepper. Thanks to him and his field crew for this video. Added to the MCC Blog on December 22 by Dmitry’s permission.

Playmate (Podington Bear) / CC BY-NC 3.0
The Rover (Speakeasy Electroswing) / By artist’s permission.

5 Tips for Staying Healthy When Active This Winter

Cold weather has its charms. Kids love seeing their own steamy breaths floating on the air. Snow is source of more outdoor activities that I can count, and can make any landscape into a gorgeous vista. Mainers retain their childlike love of the winter months through most of their lives. Maine’s winters are a popular attraction for skiers, snowshoers, and other winter sports lovers. Maine’s State Park system offers unique occasions to celebrate the cold months of the year with the Maine State Park Ski and Snowshoe Trailer, First Day Hikes, and Winter Family Fun Days.

But cold weather can be stressful on the body, dangerous, and even life threatening. For those of you who love to go out on winter days, here are some tips for keeping safe and healthy while hitting the trails this winter.

Stay Hydrated

You don’t sweat as much during the winter, but you still loose moisture through breathing and physical activity. It is just as important to drink water during the winter as it is during the summer.

Carrying water outside during freezing temperatures can be a bit of a challenge. Insulated thermoses can keep your drink from freezing. Thirst is a sign that you are already dehydrated, so drink before you get thirsty. Also try getting water from food, like fresh fruit.

Active.com has more tips on winter hydration.

Alfons005 (1)Wear Wool

Trapped air is one of the best insulators there is. Wool fabrics naturally trap air inside of them and are well known for retaining their insulating power when wet. Wool also wicks sweat away from the body.

Cotton is much more common in clothes and is less suited to keeping people warm during the winter. It doesn’t wick moisture and it losses heat more rapidly than wool.

Orvis.com has a more extensive article about the advantages of wool clothing.

Use Caution and Judgement around Ice

Hendrick_Avercamp_-_A_Scene_on_the_Ice_-_WGA01076Winter provides opportunities you wouldn’t normally have during the summer. How often do you get to ice-skate outdoors or walk on a lake? Walking on ice can be dangerous and there are a few precautionary measures you should take before venturing out.

If you intend to go out on ice, try to go to places where the ice is regularly monitored. Parks, resorts, and sporting clubs sometimes commit to regularly monitoring ice. If you can’t find information about the quality of the ice, consider asking some locals who live nearby and observe the ice closely before venturing out. Ice may not be safe to walk on if there are cracks, holes, flowing water, signs of thawing and re-freezing, and pressure ridges from water currents. The safest ice is blue to white in color and at least 4 inches thick.

Before going out, pack some spare dry clothes in a water proof container and consider bringing an ice pick was well. Don’t go alone and make sure someone else knows where you are.

WikiHow has an excellent guide on outdoor ice safety. Read it for more advice on staying safe on ice.

Avoid Alcohol

At some point you may have heard that drinking alcohol warms you up. This is not true.

During cold weather the body naturally conserves heat by restricting blood flow to your extremities, that’s part of the reason why extended exposure to cold can cause you to feel numb. Alcohol opens that blood flow back up.

Opening up blood flow to your extremities can make you feel warm, but it also causes you to lose heat more rapidly. Alcohol also decreases your body’s tendency to shiver, which generates extra heat through muscle activity.

The University of Rochester Medical Center has more tips about dressing for the winter.

Wear Sunglasses

SunglassesWinter days have a reputation for being short and dark, but UV light can still damage your eyes. The winter sun might actually be more dangerous to your eyes than summer sun in some ways. When the sun is lower in the sky, UV light comes into your eyes more directly, and snow and ice reflect UV light in all directions.

Some experts say that you should wear sunglasses all year long. See this article at WebMD.com for more details.

Alumni Spotlight: Susan Pienta

Right now in Queensbury, New York, a group of students is studying the impermeable surfaces, water sheds, erosion, and storm water features of their campus. Soon they will be preparing presentations for the local soil and water conservation district, creating proposals for how to manage erosion and storm water issues on the grounds. Leading these students is their Earth and Environmental Sciences Teacher Susan Pienta. Susan has a Master’s Degree in education and is an AmeriCorps alumna who has served with the California Conservation Corps and Maine Conservation Corps.

Susan served with the California Conservation Corps as a part of the Watershed Stewards Program. After she heard about the Maine Program, she travelled here to serve with the Portland DEP office. Serving here brought her closer to family and allowed her to continue working on watershed issues.

Susan Pienta2.pngHer mentor was Wendy Garland of the Maine DEP. Under Wendy’s tutelage, Susan helped to remove invasive plants and map the urban Trout Brook watershed. “We fought off multiflora rose and phragmites while overheating in neoprene waders with boots 3 sizes too big. It sounds miserable, but spending the summer outside, getting to intimately know a small urban watershed, and regularly laughing at our misfortunes made for a good time. “

Susan loved the service she was doing but decided that she missed working with children and went back to school for her Master’s in Education. Her time with AmeriCorps has helped to shape her career. “What I have learned as an AmeriCorps will make me a better teacher. I believe my experiences helped me earn a fellowship with the Knowles Science Teaching Foundation, an organization dedicated to helping new science and math teachers across the U.S.”

For current and future Maine Conservation Corps and AmeriCorps members she offers this advice: Take advantage of the opportunities for adventure and friendships with the wonderful people that surround you. “I was part of trip organized by fellow MCC environmental educators to Katahdin. It was definitely one of my favorite weekends in Maine with a group of awesome people. I also got to know people at my placement site and made some great friendships AND found someone to bike with on lunch breaks. Maine is a beautiful state filled with beautiful people. Get to know the state and the people! Eat lots of gelato! Trek across Maine! ”

Trimming Eyebrows with Hurricane Island

Grafton Notch State Park’s Eyebrow Trail is the site of an ongoing project to replace trail structures, improve drainage, and add stone staircases. Maine Conservation Corps Trail Crews spent two weeks on the Eyebrow Trail this year, and work is planned to continue into next year.

On October the 26th, Senior Team Leader Kat Kelley got some off-season help with this project from students of the Hurricane Island Outward Bound program. Kat lead the Outward Bound students and replaced old bog bridging, added stepping stones, cleared and improved drainage structures, and improved the trail corridor.

Outward Bound is an international outdoor education program. The MCC has worked with the Hurricane Island Outward Bound Program in the past. This year’s project involved a crew of eight Outward Bound students and instructors.20151028_100842

We hope that that the Maine Conservation Corps can continue to be a source of great experience for Outward Bound students for years to come. It was great working with all of you. Special thanks to Alex Strong of the Hurricane Island Outward Bound for reaching out to us.

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A Whale of a Nature Center: Ferry Beach

Hannah Colbert is an Environmental Steward who has been serving at Wolfe’s Neck Woods state Park. One of her service activities has been leading nature walks and interpretive activities at Wolfe’s Neck Woods and Ferry Beach State Park.

For many years, Ferry Beach has had nature walks- like the ones Hannah was leading- as part of its interpretive program. Ferry Beach State Park is in Saco, one of the more densely populated areas of Maine, and it’s accessible to dozens of nearby schools. Ferry Beach itself is home to upwards of ten distinct ecosystems including: mixed forest, freshwater pond, bog, and primary and back dunes. Probably the most unique feature of the park is the stand of Tupelo trees (Nyssa sylvatica). Maine is at the Northern edge if the Tupelo’s natural range and the trees are a rare sight in this state. Ferry Beach State Park, however, just happens to have a whole stand of them. Some of Ferry Beach’s nature walks are themed around these trees and their habitat. Ecologically interesting and accessible to a large population, Ferry Beach is the ideal place for a Nature Center.

20150826_132738 The concept for a Nature Center at Ferry Beach started to gain force about 15 years ago. The now late Park Manager, John Polackwich, was one of the strongest advocates for a Nature Center at Ferry Beach, and a small memorial garden and bench grace the exterior of the Nature Center building in his honor.

Hannah had some time before her next nature walk would start, so she took me on a short tour of the interior of the building. The Ferry Beach Nature Center had a more modern look that those at Mount Blue and Sebago Lake State Parks, which were both constructed decades ago by the Civilian Conservation Corps: Ferry Beach’s Nature Center is significantly younger. According to Gary Best, Assistant State Park Southern Regional Manager, the Nature Center was built about five years ago with donated money and grants. The inside is very spacious with a vaulted ceiling and bright lighting. There are numerous exhibits on local plant and animal life and various taxidermy animal mounts. The most attractive and imposing feature of the Nature Center is overhead. Hanging from the ceiling in Ferry Beach’s Nature Center is a fully mounted and articulated skeleton of a Long Finned Pilot Whale.

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Pilot Whales are some of the larger Oceanic Dolphins. In 2014, an older Long Finned Pilot Whale tragically beached itself on Popham Beach. No one was able to save it due to unsafe conditions. The Bureau of Parks and Lands worked with Marine Mammals of Maine to mount the skeleton in the Nature Center. With money from private donations and federal grants, Whales and Nails from Maine  was hired to articulate the skeleton.

Janet Mangione, a Park Ranger at Ferry Beech State Park, and Gary Best described the adventure of getting the skeleton into the Nature Center. The fins and body were boxed separately and when they arrived at the Nature Center, the body would not fit through the door. The crate was partly disassembled, the door taken off its frame, and the crate was pushed through at an angle. Even after making space, the crate only had an eighth of an inch of clearance.

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The skeleton was only placed in the Nature Center this fall and it has had a “soft opening.” Only a few press releases have gone out about the skeleton’s arrival and there have been no major efforts to publicly mark the installation. According to Gary Best the real celebration will be next summer. I know that I personally am looking forward to visiting the Nature Center when the feature is properly recognized.

This concludes our three part series on the Nature Centers of Maine’s State Park System. Check out the MCC Blog next week for October’s Volunteer of the Month.

Sebago Lake State Park Nature Center

Last year I was a part of the Maine Conservation Corps’ Community Leader Program. During my last couple of months I served under Matt McGuire at Sebago Lake State Park. Sebago Lake State Park has an extensive network of day-use trails, gorgeous beaches, well maintained boat launches, camping facilities, playgrounds, and the Songo Lock State Historic site.

In addition to these diverse offerings, there is one other attraction at Sebago Lake State Park. During the summer, Interpretive Ranger Bob Hunt mans the Sebago Lake State Park Nature Center. I missed it last year because I started my service after Labor Day when the Nature Center usually closes. This year, Bob has been joined by Environmental Steward Becky Pratt.

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The Nature Center was a small brown cabin with a large roofed porch. Inside I found Bob Hunt sitting at his desk.

I took some time to visit the Nature Center during this past September. I came not really knowing what to expect. When I arrived I found a shady little parking spot near one of the west campgrounds. The Nature Center was a small brown cabin with a large roofed porch. Inside I found Bob Hunt sitting at his desk:  he welcomed me and told me that Becky would be along shortly.

While we waited for Becky, Bob enthusiastically gave me the full tour of the Nature Center. Bob has had his run of the place for a few years and the little building is crowded with displays of his own creation. The exhibits range from live creatures and habitats, to preserved critters, to paleontological specimens. He knows the history of the Park and its surroundings very well, and he told me stories about the park and the Nature Center’s history.

Like Mount Blue and its Nature Center, Sebago Lake State Park’s was originally a building built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The Sebago Lake State Park Nature Center is smaller than the Mount Blue center, but it is just as crowded with educational displays. One of the first exhibits I came to was a tank filled with water and rocks. Inside, a small black animal swam to and fro with a fluid, undulating motion. Bob informed me that this cute little animal was nothing less than a blood sucking leech!

Far from being revolted, I was fascinated by the little creature. Bob regaled me with stories of his seasonal adventures catching leeches for the display, and also spoke to the medicinal applications of the little blood sucker’s anti-coagulant.

When we reached the exhibits on trees Bob showed me examples of beaver work, a tree trunk with a huge hollow made by successive generations of nesting woodpeckers, and a massive gall from a pitch pine that once grew in the park. The best parts of this section were his “cookie calendars.” For those of you who are not savvy to “chainsaw lingo” a cookie is a circular piece of wood cut off from the end of a log or stump. Bob’s cookies came from a pine and an oak tree that fell during the ice storm of 1998. Both of the trees had been dated to the 1830s and Bob had counted and marked the rings with the dates of significant events. The trees had lived through the years of the civil war all the way up to modern times.

My favorite exhibit was at the back of the building where Bob had assembled a display of rocks and minerals. At the edge of the table there was a pair of rocks containing fossilized sea shells. Both of these rocks apparently originated near an old Dam off the Golden Road in Northern Maine. One of the fossil rocks had been chipped into several pieces by Bob’s pick, and he kept it as a puzzle for children to take apart and assemble. I could easily imagine a curious child taking it apart, and gasping in wonder as they discovered fossil covered facets. I’m in my late 20s and even I was getting a little wide eyed as I played with the stone.

The real substance of the Nature Center wasn’t the exhibits themselves, but the stories Bob could tell about them. Nearly every exhibit had a narrative. Bob impressed me as an eager and energetic story teller. I could tell that many other people felt the same way. I took a look at the Center’s guest sign-in book. Next to nearly three quarters of the names were comments like: “Bob is great,” “It was really cool talking to Bob,” and “Thanks a lot Bob!” During my visit some park visitors wandered inside and soon were lost in conversation with him.

When Becky arrived, I asked her about her own experience: “I was in the Nature Center every Sunday. In the beginning, Bob explained what everything was so I had an idea and could accurately give information to the guests. Being in the Nature Center gave me a chance to actually interact with guests, something I did not do much working on the trails.” Becky seemed as just as eager to hear Bob’s stories as the other visitors.

The Nature Center, however, was less than complete. Bob’s collection of furs and some of his park guidebooks were destroyed when the park’s main office burned down last winter. While the fire caused this material loss, between the surviving features at the Nature Center and Bob’s lighthearted storytelling, I don’t think the visitors were too disappointed.

This three part series on Nature Centers will continue next week with a visit to Ferry Beach State Park. Check it out!

Music in videos from:

Stop The Clocks (Alan Singley) / CC BY-NC 3.0
FOSSIL-FISH & all the WORLD is just a DREAM inside her HEAD=GALALA side ONE (Art of Flying) / CC BY-NC-SA 3.0