Campus News

Bowdoin to Involve Middle School Students in Environmental Research

Story posted January 28, 2000

Two Bowdoin College professors have won a grant to conduct long-term environmental studies, and post their students' findings in an on-line database for use by Maine policymakers, teachers and schoolchildren.

This type of program typically has been the purview of post-graduate and governmental institutions, but this is an unusual undertaking for an undergraduate program.

Peter Lea and Ed Laine, both associate professors of geology, have won a $73,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to conduct the work, which includes:

o Watershed studies at the College's Coastal Studies Center on Orr's Island and in Maquoit Brook in Brunswick.

o Experimental well fields at the Coastal Studies Center and at the "Bowdoin Pines" adjacent to campus, which is in an aquifer that provides municipal water to much of Brunswick. Each site will include a pumping well, one deep monitoring well and four shallow monitoring wells.

Bowdoin College is matching the grant dollar-for-dollar.

The project will allow Bowdoin students to participate in studies that have real-life implications: The town of Brunswick, for example, can use the data the students collect in drafting its new zoning ordinances. The new ordinances will address the impact of development and sprawl on the ecology of nearby clam flats.

In addition, the town hosts an EPA Superfund site, currently under remediation near the Brunswick Naval Air Station. BNAS officials will make their data on the contamination available to the College.

And the entire state is grappling with the threat of contamination from the gasoline additive MBTE, which has been found in many wells and watersheds.

While the information is being used by professionals to shape local policy, it also will be used to educate Maine schoolchildren. Bowdoin has entered into partnerships with five middle schools, locally in Brunswick and SAD 75, and the rural schools in Patten, Sedwick and Vinalhaven.

The College plans to work with the Maine Math and Science Alliance to establish summer workshops for eight middle school teachers and five Bowdoin students who are interested in careers in science education. They will work together to develop pilot hydrological studies for each middle school to conduct with its own students in the coming year. In addition, the College will provide equipment and ongoing support for these teachers.

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