Wilderness and Place in Maine
The TERRAIN Expedition
What lives in the woods and mountains of western Maine? How have humans and other animals understood this place? How can we communicate their stories to wider publics?
These questions lie at the heart of our expedition, which takes us to “wilderness” areas around Jackman, Maine, a small town in Somerset County that lies close to the border of Canada. As we journey there, we will study the biology, ecology, natural history, and classification of major Northeastern game species. We will think about how the meanings local people give to these animals inform their cultural and political activities. Using mathematical and verbal literacies, we will also communicate about this environment in ways that inform, move, and empower multiple stakeholders.
One of our central premises will be that all things are interconnected and that we can learn a great deal about nature, biology, and communication by studying them together. All too often, scientists study nature without communicating their insights to the audiences who most need that knowledge. All too often, writers communicate about nature without attending to the science behind it. All too often, mathematicians quantify things without attending to real-world application. We will try to discover the value of integrating these different perspectives and argue that interdisciplinary study is absolutely crucial if one hopes to address contemporary environmental issues.
Our specific goal will be to produce a wildlife survey that benefits Sky Lodge, a Unity-owned destination lodge just north of Jackman that sits on 150 acres overlooking the Moose River Valley. Sky Lodge hopes to use the survey to inform hunting and game management policies, and to begin work on a wildlife guide book for visitors and the local community. In order to engage wider audiences, Sky Lodge may also take footage from the trail cams we use to gather data and live-stream it on their website.
Through engaging these and other projects, students will have opportunities to work with professionals across a range of resource-management fields. They will also have opportunities to communicate wildlife data in real-world contexts. This work will enable students to build skills across a range of professional lenses, from the scientific (learning how to learn about plants and animals, their habitats, and so on), to the literary (communicating mathematical, verbal, and image-based information to different stakeholders in ethical and compelling ways), to the interpersonal (learning to work as a team as we tackle this problem together).