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
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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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
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
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.