Science teacher Dr. Tanya Lubansky and ten of her Field Biology students set sail for an epic adventure last August when they spent ten days on Mount Desert Rock. Owned by College of the Atlantic for field study, MDR is known for its rocky and treeless landscape as well as being a hotspot for biological productivity. Most observed are humpback, finback, and northern right whales as well as harbor porpoises and white-sided dolphins. Large populations of harbor and gray seals reside on the island, and seabirds gather there. College of the Atlantic maintains the area, while Allied Whale, the marine mammal laboratory at COA, has created a five-year study of marine mammal populations, using MDR as a base.
With her COA background, Dr. Lubansky was elated to introduce her students to the area and kick-start not only their research projects, but a compelling and hands-on class. Field Biology is a course that explores different marine-related topics while developing skills in research and
While first a bit nervous about the trip, the nerves seemed to dissipate as soon as the students reached the island and were greeted by hoards of seals, sunbathing on rocks and bobbing in the water.
Student Emily Patrock wrote: “Some places in this world are unmistakably beautiful to every eye that beholds it. Some places become beautiful from having beloved experiences there. But there are some places, like Mount Desert Rock … that are absolutely magical…
“On this island we would not only learn about how to conduct research and about the wildlife, but about ourselves as well. The island cast its spell on us …
“On this island, we woke up near dawn to search for periwinkles. We watched minke whales surface from the historical lighthouse, waved in the salty air at the whale-watching boats, had cold-night campfires with s’mores, and watched the sunsets. We helped cook and do dishes. We ran across the rocks, and on the second-to-last day all jumped into the ocean together. It was the experience of a lifetime, and I still in the mornings close my eyes and try to pretend that I’m still there – even for just a few seconds.”
Over a week later, parents gathered around the pier, chatting excitedly about greeting the students and hearing their adventures. One by one, each student got off the boat with big smiles and happily gathered together to take a group picture, something unexpected after ten days of living off the grid. As they departed to go home, there was a sense of camaraderie and agreement that the trip was “awesome.”