Course and Faculty Information


College of the Atlantic is currently working on developing a new and improved direction for it's Summer Programs for Adult Learners.   The plan is for the return of some of the most successful programs we have offered in the past, taught by inspiring and sought-after instructors, as well as offering new programs that past participants have asked us to develop.  If you are interested in a course or workshop next summer at COA, please visit this website in January of 2015 for more information on program offerings and rates.  

Below is a description of courses offered in 2014.

If you have questions or comments regarding the program for 2015, feel free to contact the Summer Program office at 1-800-597-9500 and we would be happy to speak with you. 


Inspired by Nature: Discovering drawing and painting

June 29–July 12, 2014

An introduction to drawing skills will provide a foundation for a series of drawing and painting assignments in a classroom setting and outdoors in Acadia National Park. Whether educators or aspiring artists, students will learn how to capture a likeness with graphite pencil, charcoal, markers, colored pencil and pastel. Students will create detailed realistic drawings as well as learn methods for quickly capturing the “essence” of subjects. An understanding of the elements of design, negative space, value, principles of design, and design in nature will enhance observation skills and facilitate the drawing process.

In the second week, students will experience the differing properties of transparent and opaque watercolor paints (gouache), by creating basic color theory charts demonstrating transparency, opaqueness, complementary colors, value, intensity and analogous colors; essential information for successful mixing and application. Students will experiment with a variety of papers, brushes and techniques while practicing transparent watercolor and gouache painting skills. With nature as an overarching theme, we will derive inspiration from a wide range of subjects: botanical, insects, shells, taxidermy animals in the Dorr Museum, landscapes and live subjects, starting with simple goals and progressing to greater mastery. Field trips will take place in Acadia National Park and on the research vessel, Osprey.

Each week begins with basic instruction, breaking the drawing and painting process down into manageable steps, followed by increasingly complex assignments. Differences in previous art experience will be accommodated through adjustments in goals and focus. Handouts created by the instructor support educators’ efforts to integrate visual concepts into the science or art curriculum. Drawing can be an alternate mode of communication and a way to address different learning styles. Art is like a language with a visual and creative vocabulary that can be used as an analytic tool. Participants will learn how to use these concepts as a way to help their students make comparisons and connections, record observations and draw conclusions. Examples of scientific discoveries throughout history will illustrate the link between keen observation, problem solving and a lifelong passion for science. By having their own art experience, educators will be more confident using art as a learning tool in the classroom and as a vocation. Field trips encourage educators to bring their students outdoors, or bring the outdoors to them.

Lab fee: $90

Jean Carlson Masseau received her BFA from Rhode Island School of Design in Illustration, with special interest in the areas of printmaking, photography and textiles. She is a freelance illustrator and photographer working for a variety of clients nationwide from her studio in Hinesburg, Vermont. She received her teaching certificate from the University of Vermont and began her career as a full time high school art teacher at South Burlington High School in Vermont. She has taught a wide variety of community art classes for students of all ages over the years and occasionally teaches a Botanical Illustration workshop for RISD’s C.E. Department. Some of her clients have included Vermont Life Magazine, Vermont Magazine, Horticulture, Fine Gardening, Gardeners’ Supply Catalog, National Gardening Magazine, Delta Airline’s SKY Magazine, Lake’s End Cheeses, Garden Design Magazine, Gardening for Dummies (IDG Books Worldwide), Chapters Publishing (Evening Gardens), and Women’s Day Gardening among others. Her recent work has focused on fine art painting in watercolor and gouache (opaque watercolor) and creating limited edition prints of her paintings. One of her favorite artistic activities is drawing from nature in a variety of mediums. Her work has received recognition from the NY Society of Illustrators, and Print Magazine in their Regional Design Annuals’ “Best of New England” category. She is a regular practitioner of figure drawing and portraiture from life.


Course Syllabus

Marine Ecology for Citizen scientists

July 6–19, 2014

This course will provide participants with an overview of the physical and biological features of a unique coastal marine environment, the Gulf of Maine. Participants will develop a familiarity with local intertidal organisms, and we will use a combination of field activities as well as substantial time in the lab for more careful observation and experimentation to learn about the organisms that inhabit the intertidal zone. This two-week course is organized into two main parts, and it is possible to take one, the other, or, ideally, both sessions. During the first week, we will focus our attention on the ecological processes involving creatures living along Maine’s rocky shoreline. We will be exploring a range of ecological questions. Which species are best at competing for limiting resources? Which are best at coping with the physical challenges of an environment that is periodically exposed to the air and pummeled by waves? Who are the voracious predators and what do they prefer to feed on? What challenges do planktonic larvae face when they metamorphose into juveniles and enter the community on the rocky shore? To investigate these questions, we will spend time in the field using the methods of intertidal ecology to collect data on patterns of abundance and diversity along the shore of Bar Island. We will then run through some introductory-level statistics to help us quantify the patterns we find. We will finish the first week with a field trip to Anemone Cave to initiate a long-term monitoring project, which is of interest to Acadia National Park. Diversity of animal form, ecology, and behavior will be emphasized during the second week of this course. A week of spectacular morning low tides will give us access to a range of intertidal habitats and the organisms that live there. We will be looking carefully at external and internal anatomy to investigate the diverse ways that animals have evolved to thrive along Maine’s shores. Expect to see snails, sponges, sea slugs, clams, mussels, worms, sea urchins, crabs, starfish, barnacles, and more. Discussions in the classroom and field will put these organisms into ecological and evolutionary context. While the emphasis will be on creatures we can directly observe in the field and lab, we will also make time to learn about creatures inhabiting other environments including coral reefs and the deep sea as a way to illustrate unique adaptations to diverse challenges.

What to bring:
Because we will be spending significant amounts of time in the field, it is important that you are dressed appropriately to stay comfortable. Be prepared for rain and cold weather, but hope for sunny skies; anything can happen during summer in coastal Maine. You will need footwear that can be used in wet, slippery, muddy intertidal habitats. Cheap rubber boots are what I wear. Old tennis shoes or Tevas also work if your feet don’t get too cold. I will have a number of marine biology texts and articles available for you to look at and use, but I do not emphasize reading for this course. There is no required text. If you decide you want to purchase your own field guides, they will be available at our natural history museum. Bring whatever you will need for taking notes and making drawings in the classroom and in the field. A calculator would also be useful. If you have any questions or just want to say hello, feel free to email me at

Lab Fee: $75.00

Dr. Helen Hess received a BS in Biology from UCLA in 1985 and a PhD in Zoology from the University of Washington in 1991. She has been on the faculty at COA since 1994. Helen teaches a variety of biology courses at COA, most of which involve a significant field or lab component. Her formal training as an invertebrate zoologist has lead her to develop courses that take her and her students wherever invertebrates are found, including local rivers, Maine's rocky intertidal shores, and Caribbean coral reefs. She also teaches a course in bio mechanics, where students explore how the laws of physics have played a role the evolution of living organisms. Helen also has strong interests in teacher education and spends part of every summer involved in courses and workshops aimed at K-12 teachers as well as COA students who are pursuing a teaching credential. Helen's research interests focus on the reproductive biology of marine organisms, and she has studied parental behavior in worms, mating systems in mouth brooding in fishes, and the evolution of self-fertilization in hermaphroditic invertebrates. While she mainly identifies herself as a teacher at COA, she also enjoys including students in her research activities. She is currently working with COA students on a project studying the reproductive biology of a large, local sea cucumber species that is the target of an emergent fishery. She is also involved in writing papers with COA students on research projects on cleaning behavior in tropical reef fishes and on the evolution of egg size in fishes. In addition to publishing in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, Helen also occasionally writes science articles for popular magazines.


Course Syllabus

A View from mount desert rock: studying whales and seals in their natural habitat

July 6–19, 2014

Marine mammals have caused strong emotions in humans for millennia. Beginning with utter fear during the first encounters between people and whales, through a period during which whales were seen as an economic resource to be exploited, emotions are now characterized by admiration and awe. These historic and current experiences are reflected in the ways marine mammals have become part of many cultures and traditional world views. Today, marine mammals arguably belong to the group of charismatic megafauna that are the basis of an increasing tourism sector, demand public attention, and help galvanize fund-raising campaigns across the world.

In this course, we will go below the superficial fascination and attraction that often characterizes representations of marine mammals in the public sphere. We will explore marine mammals from a variety of approaches and views, with the aim of better understanding their evolution, physiology and ecology, as well as their links to our own culture, society and politics. 

Therefore, the objective of the course is to gain an appreciation for, and an understanding of, the place of marine mammals within their natural environment, and our historical, social and cultural relationship with them. By the end of the course, participants will have developed their own personal history and relationship with these fascinating animals and have a solid understanding of current marine mammalogy.

Participants will achieve these objectives through observing marine mammals  first-hand in their natural habitat, exploring of scientific methods of data collection, engaging with scientific and popular literature and media, and through discussing topics and issues in a welcoming, relaxed, and cooperative atmosphere. 

Encounters with marine mammals most often occur in nature, so we begin by introducing the different species and how to recognize them in the field. We will then turn our attention to the evolutionary history of marine mammals by highlighting their adaptations to life in water. The relationship between marine mammals and their environment, and their behavior, will be the next topics. We will also discuss the impact humans have had and are having on marine mammals, from whaling to environmental degradation to fisheries and global climate change. This part of the course will also include an exploration of global efforts to conserve marine mammal species and their habitats. Finally, we will examine the role of marine mammals in cultures and societies across the globe.

Throughout the course, the focus will be on experiencing marine mammals and their environment first-hand. We will go on frequent boat trips to areas where we can observe marine mammals. We will also spend three days out on Mount Desert Rock where we have the opportunity to literally live with, and observe, marine mammals around the clock. In addition, we will explore the topics mentioned above in lectures, discussions, video sessions, and through reading primary and popular literature.

The course does not require any previous knowledge or experience. Contents and teaching methods will be adapted to the knowledge, experience and interests of the course participants.  

This course is designed for two types of participants: teachers, and interested adults. Teachers of any grade, who either teach topics related to marine mammals or have an interest in marine mammals and their environment, will be able to develop teaching ideas, tools and units during the course in collaboration with the instructor and the other participants. Throughout the course they will have the opportunity to develop and discuss teaching material that they will be able to use in their own classroom. The course will also be attractive to adults who want to learn more about marine mammals or are interested in the marine environment and wish to experience it in a unique and focused way. 

Despite the different audiences, this course is based on the idea of a learning community, in which each participant is respected and valued for her or his contributions. We will strive for a safe, relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere that will allow for intense learning and experiences.

Lab fee: $300.00

Christoph Richter received his PhD from the University of Otago, New Zealand, where he investigated the impact of whale watching on male sperm whales. He earned a MSc from Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada, researching means to reduce bycatch of harbor porpoise in the Bay of Fundy. He is currently a lecturer for the Biology Department at the University of Toronto at Mississauga, Canada, where he teaches courses on ecology, diversity of organisms, and statistics. He previously taught at Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada, has lectured on cruise ships in the Arctic, and has studied cetacean behavior around Canada’s east coast, the Gulf of Mexico and New Zealand.


Course Syllabus

nature in focus: Environmental Photography

August 3–16, 2014

This class will focus on the fundamentals of digital photography. Participants will learn how to compose, capture, process and present for viewing fine art photographs. This learning experience is suitable for everyone interested in photography – from the more advanced photographer to the adult learner hoping to hone their basic skills. The goal of the course is to give participants the tools they need to create images suitable for any venue through an intensive field and laboratory experience. Field experiences will concentrate on capturing images in and around Acadia National Park. Laboratory experiences will immerse the participants in basic and advanced techniques of effective digital workflow using Adobe Photoshop.

Since we will be concentrating on the natural landscapes of the park, an emphasis will be placed on the concept of conservation photography. This area of imagery has grown out of the need to make a distinction between capturing images for the sake of photography, and the creation of images to serve the purpose of conserving nature. Conservation photography reveals both the beauty and fragility of our planet's natural systems. A subset of nature photography, the goal of conservation photography is to produce images that inspire and move people to change their behavior and take action to help conserve our planet’s natural resources.

The course will cover camera operation, composition, lighting, subject matter, digital optimization, printing, matting and framing. Drs. Fitzgerald and Harris will engage novice and intermediate, as well as advanced photographers by customizing learning opportunities to meet each participant’s needs. All participants will need (at a minimum) a digital SLR and a tripod. Participants must be open to learning some advanced Adobe Photoshop techniques. This course is appropriate for all adult learners including K-12 teachers, undergraduate and graduate students, and others who want to take their photography to the next level. (Please note: Some light hiking will be required to reach areas where images will be captured).

Lab fee: $90

Dr. Randall Fitzgerald is a biologist, behavioral ecologist and environmental educator at Montclair State University's School of Conservation. He has pursued the fine art of photography for over 40 years, using many different photographic techniques. His love of the natural environment has permeated both his academic and photographic life, and consequently most of his fine art images reflect the intimacy he enjoys with the natural world. Natural and rural landscapes comprise the bulk of his work, however he also enjoys creating still-life photography and capturing images of wildlife. Regardless of the subject matter, he strives to create images that stimulate our undeniable connection to the planet and the cultures that have populated it. His goal is to strike that universal cord of understanding, through imagery, that is innately present in each of us. Dr. FitzGerald currently exhibits and sells his images at several galleries in the northwestern region of New Jersey. A sampling of his images can be viewed on his website.


Dr. Nancy Harris has a BS in biology with a concentration in secondary education from Bloomsburg University, a MA in environmental studies with a concentration in environmental education from Montclair State University, and an EDD from Walden University in teacher leadership. She is currently a teacher of the gifted and talented in the Jefferson Township School District, Oak Ridge New Jersey. During her 23 years in public education Dr. Harris has conducted numerous teacher workshops in experiential education using the natural environment to enhance learning. Most recently, she has explored the relationship between art and science, by writing curriculum that uses art as a conduit for teaching science concepts. As the recipient of several grants, Dr. Harris has been afforded the opportunity to expand the art and science connection by producing educational materials for teachers to use in their classrooms.


Course Syllabus


For a complete listing of our 2015 summer course offerings, please check this website in January 2015


Reg Online is a secure online course registration site. Course payments may be made via check, credit card, or purchase order. 


While you're in class your family members can enjoy exploring Acadia National Park with our expert naturalist guides!

COA's popular Family Nature Camp offers week-long sessions between July 5 – August 1, 2015. 

Our Summer Field Studies day camp for children offers one- and two-week sessions for children in grades 1– 9. 


Summer Programs

College of the Atlantic

105 Eden Street

Bar Harbor, ME 04609

Phone: 1-800-597-9500

Fax: 207-288-3780