Meet Our New Public Affairs Scholar

The Margaret Chase Smith Public Affairs Scholarship for 2018-19 has been awarded to Alyson East, an Environmental Science major from Calais, Maine. East is working on the Schoodic Ecosystem Services Project to quantify the changes in the Schoodic Peninsula of Acadia National Park with its recent land acquisition and recreational development. UMaine researchers, in collaboration with the Schoodic Institute, are examining changes in vegetation and bird biodiversity, carbon storage, tourism, and economic impacts in order to quantify the ecosystem benefits to humans (referred to as ecosystem services). As part of this team, East has collected and analyzed field data in the park. She will be continuing her project this year with her academic advisor, Dr. Kate Ruskin of Ecology and Environmental Sciences, Dr. Aaron Strong of Hamilton College, and Dr. Nick Fisichelli of the Schoodic Institute.

East’s specific interests focus on the issue of carbon sequestration and changes in biodiversity, though she plans to take a major role in the analysis of all of the identified ecosystem services. “My ultimate goal with this research is to take the findings full circle and communicate the full scope of the changes back to land managers at Acadia National Park with the hopes of informing future management practices. It has been incredibly rewarding to see this project progress from the beginning, and I have been very lucky to have advisors that were willing to let me take such a big role in this project and have taught me so many valuable skills along the way.”

This project will serve as West’s senior capstone project and will continue throughout the academic year. She just returned from presenting preliminary results at the Ecological Society of America annual conference in New Orleans, LA, and will present the final results of her project at the UMaine Student Research Symposium next April. As she builds her skills as a researcher, East prepares for a career in developing solutions to environmental problems.

For more information on the scholarship program, see