Weekly field trips get science students outside and in the field. Ursa writes about the last week’s inaugural trip – a rite of passage, really – to Morse Mountain. Field Trip this week will focus on forest succession and interpreting the landscape right here on Chewonki Neck.
Last week the other Semester School students and I took our first field trip. Weekly field trips are an important part of our Natural History of the Maine Coast science class, and this trip was to Morse Mt. in Phippsburg, Maine. After driving about an hour south (during which we enjoyed packed lunches – yummm) we arrived at a non-descript parking area. The hike to the summit was short but rewarding; Morse Mountain is about 160 feet above sea level. The weather was amazing as well as strange – blue sky and unseasonably warm weather for mid-February.
After shedding a few layers, we took in our surroundings. We were perched on a granite overlook, facing west. Pitch pines, red spruce, and white pine grew nearby. Below us, meandering channels flowed through the long salt marsh from the north to the south. Looking south, the salt marsh ended and the open ocean began – stretching as far as the eye could see. Behind us stood a house (our path had actually been a road) and a small whirring wind turbine. (Editor’s note: this turbine, a VAWT, was a vertical action wind turbine – pretty cool!)
Next we began to discuss landscape ecology and interesting features of the local ecosystems. We shared ideas about the natural history of the region – how this mountain came to be here, how that marsh was carved by receding glaciers thousands of years ago, why that tree was thriving on this windy summit. We wrote our first “site description” in our yellow, all-weather field journals, noting weather and landscape.
On our way back down, we stopped three times to write “species accounts,” full descriptions of a certain trees. On this trip we recorded pitch pine, red spruce, and eastern hemlock. Science teachers Peter Sniffen and Bryce Koukopoulos listed facts about the species, and we took notes and sketches in our trusty journals. As it got later and cooler, we returned to the buses for our drive back to Chewonki.
Although we returned to the Chewonki campus, our visit to Morse Mountain is now an experience we all share. It will always be a small part of ourselves and our semester community.
– Ursa Beckford, Clifton, ME