Marine and Coastal Ecology Learning Adventures

Posted on April 26, 2024

Karen Provazza | SSC Senior Director of Communications

“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” — Jacques Yves Cousteau

There is no denying the mighty power of the ocean. The ocean shapes the very contours of our planet and influences the climate, ecosystems, and livelihoods of countless people worldwide. Here at home, the ocean—the Gulf of Maine—shapes our way of life. Its rich history, productive fisheries, awe-inspiring views, and multitude of recreational activities it supports, are among the reasons we choose to live here. And we know that our beloved seaside home is rapidly changing. 

Over the last 30 years, the Gulf of Maine has warmed 3 times faster than the global average—faster than 99% of the world’s ocean.* The changes in the Gulf are complex. Researchers are working hard to better understand the impact on its ecosystems and influence on our coastal environment. We all witnessed the powerful waves, surging tides, and devastating storms this past winter. Many say it was unlike anything they have seen in their lifetime. It was a glimpse into a future with rising sea levels, and increased storm frequency and intensity. It highlighted the importance for each of us to gain a deeper understanding of our connection with the ocean.

At Seacoast Science Center, we believe that hands-on, science-based education that connects you to the places you know and love, can be most impactful. That is why we have been expanding our programming to bring you out onto the water, get your hands wet, and immerse you in learning first-hand. We launched our popular Wildlife Kayak Tours in 2021, giving participants the opportunity to explore Little Harbor and Berry’s Brook with a naturalist and learn about the habitats and wildlife along the way. In 2022, our Marine Mammal Rescue team expanded on these efforts by hosting Seal Walks to view our resident seal species in the wild, instilling a conservation ethic with beachgoers to respectfully share the shore with local wildlife.

In 2023, we piloted a new program entitled Isles of Shoals Excursions: A Marine and Coastal Learning Adventure. The program begins aboard the Shining Star, a new custom Mussel Ridge 46, as we set course for the Isles of Shoals. SSC naturalists orient participants to the Gulf of Maine, discussing what makes it one of the world’s most dynamic environments, and set the stage with stories of its past history. Wildlife sightings along the way—from seabirds to whales—provide the perfect segway for conservation about the shift in species populations due to the Gulf’s warming waters. 

Tide Pooling on Star Island
Tide Pooling on Star Island.

Once we reach our Star Island destination, we head to the tide pools and get our feet wet, exploring the intertidal zone and the fascinating animals and seaweeds that live there.  After tide pooling, participants can choose to either explore the island on their own, visit the Rutledge Marine Lab, or grab a bite to eat at the island café. History lovers are encouraged to utilize the Homelands Augmented Reality App. It brings Abenaki lifeways of the past, present, and future into the world around you as you tour the island.

Once back aboard the Shining Star, we slowly travel around the smaller islands that are favored by harbor and gray seals. Viewing and learning about these charismatic animals from a safe distance is always a highlight of the program. Here, participants are able to witness the results of 50 years of conservation, thanks to the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which brought seals back to the Gulf of Maine after their extirpation from these waters due to bounties in Maine and Massachusetts. Conversations about the role seals play in the ecosystem, and the shifts we are seeing in species distribution, provide valuable insight into changes occurring in the Gulf of Maine. 

Seals off Duck Island
Seals off Duck Island.

During our ride back to the mainland, participants can sit back and enjoy the view while sharing stories about their day.

When we first launched the Isles of Shoals Excursions, they sold out almost instantly! While we added more trips to the schedule this year, we expect them to sell out quickly. We plan to expand the schedule again next year, so if space is not available this season, please be sure to make plans to join us early next spring. We hope to see you aboard!

Learn more our Isles of Shoals Excursions and Wildlife Kayak Tours.

*Gulf of Maine Research Institute; www.gmri.org

Seacoast Science Center will be CLOSED today: Friday, April 5, 2024. Our utilities are currently down and need to get repaired before we are able to open for visitors. Thank you for your understanding. 

CLOSED today.

Seacoast Science Center is closed today due to inclement weather.