Doherty Charitable Foundation Supports New Postdoctoral Program for the Bowdoin Scientific Field Station at Kent Island
With a recent $1 million grant from the Henry L. and Grace Doherty Charitable Foundation, Bowdoin is on its way to establishing a permanent postdoctoral program based on Kent Island.
The program will bring early-career climate change scientists to the island to conduct research and mentor undergraduates.
This grant builds on a series of previous gifts from the Foundation that have been instrumental to the development of the College’s marine sciences and coastal studies program.
Since 1935, Bowdoin has maintained an active scientific field station on Kent Island, with scientists and students undertaking research on a range of topics from songbirds to fisheries. More than 250 articles based on island research have been published in this time.
The history and location of this small patch of land in the Bay of Fundy make it an ideal spot for both climate change studies and scientific collaboration. For nearly nine decades, researchers have collected enormous amounts of data on local weather and on the migrating birds—storm petrels, tree swallows, and savannah sparrows—that return each year to nest. Such long-term and comprehensive data sets are rare, and so can provide a vital tool for scientists studying the effects of climate change.
Every summer, the community of scholars on Kent Island grows to about twenty-five people, including eight Bowdoin students who pursue independent projects. The close-knit quarters of the island mean that undergraduates pursue research alongside faculty and graduate students from other US and Canadian colleges and universities.
Under the current leadership of Assistant Professor of Biology Patty Jones, Kent Island’s field station will not only continue its long-term research, but also introduce new studies on pollinator communities, forest regeneration, and marine intertidal invertebrates and algae.
Recognizing the potential of Kent Island for studying our changing environment, the Henry L. and Grace Doherty Charitable Foundation has awarded the College a $1 million challenge grant to endow a new postdoctoral scholar program that advances the unique research opportunities on Kent Island. Bowdoin will raise another $1 million to match this contribution as part of its comprehensive campaign.
“We saw the work at Kent Island as important to understanding climate change and the impact it has on the marine environment,” Foundation Director and Secretary James R. Billingsley Jr. ’84 said.
“The Foundation is excited to support this program and the opportunities it will provide emerging scholars and scientists starting out in the field as well as the collaborations it will foster in the broader research community.”
The Doherty Kent Island Postdoctoral Scholar will be responsible for teaching, mentoring undergraduate research, and collaborating with other field stations and institutions engaged in similar work. The postdoc will also have the opportunity to run their own independent research program.
For a small liberal arts college, having a new postdoctoral scholar join the faculty – in this case on a two-year rotating basis – can broaden the choice of classes for students and introduce them to scholars immersed in the latest research and lab techniques. “They can create a lot of new diversity for our department in terms of ideas and the ability to mentor students in different fields,” said Assistant Professor and Kent Island Director Patty Jones.
“This generous award from the Foundation enables us to expand Kent Island’s research program and our collaborations with other institutions, while also providing a postdoctorate position that offers valuable teaching experience along with research for early-career scientists and scholars.”
—Dean for Academic Affairs Elizabeth McCormack
The Doherty Charitable Foundation has been a longtime partner of the College. The Foundation focuses on supporting the marine sciences, particularly programs involving the Gulf of Maine. Over the years, its support has been critical to the trajectory of Bowdoin’s growing marine science and coastal studies program.
Among the Foundation’s earliest awards to the College was a 1984 grant that established the James R. and Helen Lee Billingsley Professorship in Marine Biology, a position currently held by Professor Amy Johnson. In 1996, it created the Doherty Coastal Studies Research Fellowship. Since the first fellowships were awarded, more than 100 Bowdoin students have engaged in research at the Schiller Coastal Studies Center as Doherty Fellows. The Foundation also established the Doherty Marine Biology Scholar program in 2004, which brings talented postdoctoral scholars to the Schiller Coastal Studies Center to teach classes as part of the Bowdoin Marine Science Semester and conduct their own research.
“We are thrilled to continue to partner with the Doherty Foundation as we further strengthen our marine and coastal studies programs with this new opportunity to focus on climate change,” said Dean McCormack.