Researcher Uses Freshwater Puddles to Study Climate Change

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Acadia National Park is one of the most beautiful places on earth.

People come from all around the world to admire the beauty of the rugged coastline, and to hear the waves smashing into the rocks.

But while people are here, they often just walk right past these puddles of water that are on the rugged, rocky coastline. And they don't notice that these puddles are actually amazing little ecosystems that are just teeming with life.

If you've ever been out to Schoodic Point in Acadia National Park, then you've probably noticed these small puddles of water that occur in the rock crevices above the intertidal zone. So these pools are actually just fresh water. They're crevices in the rock that are just filled with rain water. And they're actually entire little ecosystems.

And you can get down on your hands and knees, and stare into one of these pools, and you'll see a bunch of amazing things going on. Arthropods are scavenging around on the bottom of the pools. Daphnia are filtering algae out of the water column. Diving beetles are preying on those daphnia.

And if you come out to the freshwater rock pools at night and you shine a flashlight into the pools, you'll see that the pools are actually filled with critters that you didn't see during the day. Like dragonfly larvae, which come out from under the rocks at night to prey on things like the daphnia that are swimming around in the pools.

Freshwater rock pools are an amazing scientific tool. They're small and isolated, which makes them really easy to study. The critters that live in the pool grow really well in the lab. You can bring them into the lab and get a really detailed understanding of their biology. And you can replicate the pools in the field using small plastic tubs surrounded by rocks. And then you can manipulate factors like temperature in those pools using open top greenhouses. Or the precipitation in those pools by adding or preventing precipitation that's getting into the pools, so you can understand how the entire ecosystem will be affected by things like climate change.

Climate change is having a dramatic effect on species all around the world. Species are already shifting their distributions. They're changing their abundance. They're rescheduling their lives to respond to increasing temperatures and the changing timing of the seasons.

Places like Acadia National Park are having to try to think about how species within the park boundaries and beyond will be affected by climate change. But studying how species will be affected by climate change is actually really difficult.

But just like the medical field has used lab mice to understand how to cure diseases in humans, climate change biologists can use a system like the freshwater rock pool ecosystem in Acadia National Park to get better understanding of how other species will respond to climate change.

I'm Chris Nadeau, and I'm a PhD student at the University of Connecticut, and I use little critters that live in rock pools out here on Schoodic Point to study how species will respond to climate change.

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3 minutes, 49 seconds

Chris Nadeau is a climate change biologist who studies puddles. Puddles of freshwater, known as freshwater rock pools, are an amazing scientific tool. Much like mice are used as a model to understand human medicine, the fascinating diversity of life in freshwater rock pools can serve as a model to understand how biodiversity will be affected by climate change. Chris started studying the freshwater rock pools on Schoodic Point in Acadia National Park in 2016, in partnership with the Schoodic Institute. In subsequent years, as a Second Century Stewardship Fellow, Chris spent countless summer days on his hands and knees staring into puddles and talking to park visitors about climate change. His research continues to inform what managers of protected areas like Acadia can do to conserve species under climate change, proving that tiny critters can be invaluable for solving big problems. Learn more about freshwater rock pools and their value as a scientific tool in this short video.

Acadia National Park

Last updated: February 21, 2020