For the COA course Mapping Ocean Stories, students studied <a href="https://coagis.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=aa33cbfd131540efb5bfe1ad4dd23dae" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the relationship between communities dependent on the local lobstering and fishing industry and the changing profile of the ocean itself</a>. This brought students out to a number of locations to interview families and investigate this relationship themselves.For the COA course Mapping Ocean Stories, students studied the relationship between communities dependent on the local lobstering and fishing industry and the changing profile of the ocean itself. This brought students out to a number of locations to interview families and investigate this relationship themselves.

Patricio “Pato” Gallardo ’18 has developed a growing fascination with watersheds and intertidal zones throughout his undergraduate career at College of the Atlantic. In these places on the landscape, he finds interconnection, co-reliance, and the heart of community.

As Gallardo’s love for these precious natural areas has grown, so too has his desire to find applicable, practical ways to help conserve them. Much of this has taken the form of scientific research and fieldwork, which has provided great insight into the array of wildlife that inhabits such places.

Corina Gribble ’20, left, and Patricio Gallardo ’18, second from left, interviewed the Knowles family of Winter Harbor for their final project in Mapping Ocean Stories. The Knowles have fished in Winter Harbor for three generations.Corina Gribble ’20, left, and Patricio Gallardo ’18, second from left, interviewed the Knowles family of Winter Harbor for their final project in Mapping Ocean Stories. The Knowles have fished in Winter Harbor for three generations. Credit: Patricio Gallardo ’18Recently, through an innovative course combining geographic information system (GIS) mapping techniques and the oral historian’s art of capturing stories, Gallardo came to see that the people who live and work in and around these natural areas are just as important than even the most comprehensive collection of biological data could be.

“In watersheds, you can see how everything is connected – schools, industries, businesses, households, and ecosystems, all relying on the water,” Gallardo said. “I’ve come to see that conservation is not just about preserving an ecosystem, but a way of life.”

Gallardo was a student in Mapping Ocean Stories, a COA “monster course” taught by history professor Todd Little-Siebold in conjunction with marine science and conservation experts from Maine Sea Grant and the Island Institute.

A total of 12 students in the course spent the term studying the connections between coastal communities and the ocean by traveling to towns near COA and talking directly with fishermen, families, and business owners who make their living from the sea.

Interactions with coastal fishing families during Mapping Ocean Stories helped pull Teagan White ’18 out of the COA “bubble,” she says, while also instilling in her a newfound appreciation for the human aspect of <a href="/academics/areas-of-study/marine-science/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">marine conservation</a>.Interactions with coastal fishing families during Mapping Ocean Stories helped pull Teagan White ’18 out of the COA “bubble,” she says, while also instilling in her a newfound appreciation for the human aspect of marine conservation. Credit: Jack Sullivan · The Island Institute

The goal of the course was not just to teach students how to research and perform interviews, but to contribute to a wider process known as ocean planning that seeks to create processes to plan how communities, stakeholders, industry, and the government can build a long-term vision of how the spaces of the Gulf of Maine might be used, Little-Siebold said.

Bringing community members into typically bureaucratic rulemaking processes, as regional ocean planning calls for, helps create much better, more sensible rules, while also building buy-in from those affected by such rules, making positive change a much more likely outcome, Little-Siebold said.

Throughout the course of Mapping Ocean Stories, students visited a number of <a href="/islands/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">island</a> communities in the Gulf of Maine, such as Little Cranberry Island.Throughout the course of Mapping Ocean Stories, students visited a number of island communities in the Gulf of Maine, such as Little Cranberry Island. Credit: Jack Sullivan · The Island Institute“The Department of Marine Resources and other rulemaking organizations have no tools to learn about community uses. Often all these agencies have is biological information, which means that they are making decisions that impact communities without taking into account any human context,” Little-Siebold said. “Information about specific cultural uses allows much greater insight into communities, and allows for management not just of fisheries, but of entire ecosystems. And, when you have ecosystem management, you get informed support and backing for environmental health improvements and community sustainability. You get everyone working on one team.”

For Teagan White ’18, Mapping Ocean Stories has served to help pull her out of the COA “bubble,” while also instilling in her a newfound appreciation for the human aspect of marine conservation.

“A lot of the people that we interviewed were not people that the school had an established relationship with and were ‘safe’ to talk to,” White said. “We talked to somewhere around 30 people – that in itself is a whole different level than what I’ve done before.”

Students enrolled in Mapping Ocean Stories ended the term with a presentation of their work at an evening event at Winter Harbor's historic Hammond Hall. Their findings and stories were compiled into <a href="https://coagis.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=aa33cbfd131540efb5bfe1ad4dd23dae" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a collaborative story map</a>, made with Geographic Information System (GIS) technology.Students enrolled in Mapping Ocean Stories ended the term with a presentation of their work at an evening event at Winter Harbor's historic Hammond Hall. Their findings and stories were compiled into a collaborative story map, made with Geographic Information System (GIS) technology.

White has spent years at COA “following the breadcrumbs of marine courses” and supplementing these with independent studies, and while she loves understanding the workings of ocean life, courses like Mapping Ocean Stories have cultivated within her a strong desire to also work with the people who interact with that life.

“In watersheds, you can see how everything is connected – schools, industries, businesses, households, and ecosystems, all relying on the water… Conservation is not just about preserving an ecosystem, but a way of life” — Patricio Gallardo ’18.

“I don’t want to end up being a Ph.D. marine science person,” White said. “I’d much rather work on the water and with communities. Once you start to listen to the fishermen talk, and to learn these stories, you learn that it just feels wrong to isolate yourself with one or another oceanography study.”

The students in the course created oral history documents and GIS maps for several of the communities they interviewed, but none so complete as the one they did for Winter Harbor, a small coastal town adjacent to Acadia National Park’s Schoodic Peninsula. Teaming up with the Winter Harbor historical society, students were able to interview a number of families and other players in the local fishing industry and create an extensive, multi-media map that, for the first time, collects this specific information in one place.

At an evening presentation in late fall, students from the course stood up in pairs in Winter Harbor’s historic Hammond Hall in front of local history buffs and fishing families and shared their work. One by one, they presented audio clips of local fishermen, maps of colloquially named fishing grounds, stories and anecdotes from the community’s rich relationship with the sea.

The final products of Mapping Ocean Stories include a <a href="https://coagis.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=aa33cbfd131540efb5bfe1ad4dd23dae" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">collaborative map telling the story of the fishing families and businesspeople interviewed by the students,</a> and how these stories interact with the changing profile of the ocean. The map is made with Geographic Information System (GIS) technology and is hosted on <a href="http://coagis.maps.arcgis.com/home/index.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">COA's GIS map library</a>.The final products of Mapping Ocean Stories include a collaborative map telling the story of the fishing families and businesspeople interviewed by the students, and how these stories interact with the changing profile of the ocean. The map is made with Geographic Information System (GIS) technology and is hosted on COA's GIS map library.

The students began nervously but relaxed as the evening wore on. The care that they had put into the maps was apparent from the first, and the respectful way that they handled the personal stories they were given was clearly appreciated by the crowd. The careful mixture of science and art that the students put into their projects had resulted in a product that really could bring everyone onto one team, just as Little-Siebold had said all along.

Mapping Ocean Stories was made possible by the Fund for Maine Islands, a collaborative program between COA and the Island Institute. Co-teachers included Natalie Springuel of Maine Sea Grant and Nick Battista and Rebecca Clark Uchenna of Island Institute.