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UMaine Today Magazine


Perspective

Esperanza Stancioff

Esperanza Stancioff

Title: Statewide Associate Marine Extension Professor, Maine Healthy
Beaches Coordinator, University of Maine Cooperative Extension and Maine Sea Grant
Research focus: Water quality, invasive species and climate change
Years at UMaine: 20
Milestones: Providing a leadership role in the development and implementation of coastal citizen environmental monitoring in Maine, supplying data used by local, state and federal data managers; and facilitating opportunities for volunteers (both youth and adult) to gain real-life science experience that is meaningful for their communities.
 

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Healthy Beaches

Question: What do you consider the biggest threat to the overall health of Maine's beaches?

Answer: With the population growth primarily in the coastal and southern regions of the state, we face development pressures affecting the beach areas. Typically accompanying these development pressures are nonpoint source pollution, and human practices that affect water quality and health. However, beyond immediate human development pressures, the biggest threat to Maine's beaches is the effect of climate change through sea level rise, storms and other coastal hazards.

Question: Why are clean beaches so important?

Answer: Clean beaches are important for the abundance and distribution of beach system organisms and the health of this fragile ecosystem. Tourism is Maine's largest industry, with 60 percent of visitors coming explicitly to explore the beach and ocean. Beaches are vital to our economic well-being.

Question: What role do beaches play in the ecological health of coastal areas?

Answer: Sandy beaches provide habitat for important small organisms, such as decomposer bacteria and fungi, algae and invertebrates, as well as shore birds. Sandy beaches also provide ecological linkages to adjacent ecosystems, such as sand dunes, the surf zone, estuaries and coastal lagoons supporting a myriad of life.

Question: What can people do to protect Maine's beaches and coastal areas?

Answer: Some of the most basic steps that can be taken include maintenance of septic systems and healthy habits at the beach. The latter includes a long list of practices, such as the use of swim diapers, picking up your litter, leaving pets at home or cleaning up after them, not feeding the wildlife, etc. The more involved and critical things that can be done include the following: ensure that communities maintain and monitor waste systems, including sewage treatment systems and individual septic systems; require that boaters have holding tanks and use pump-out facilities; avoid construction in critically sensitive areas, such as wetlands or beaches. Finally, we all have to do our part to reduce carbon emissions through whatever ways possible, such as replacing incandescent lights with fluorescent in our homes, driving fuel-efficient vehicles, and selecting green power as our source of electricity.
 

UMaine Today Magazine
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