2023 Colby Island Campus Summer Fellows

Island Campus Fellows live and work on Allen Island for the summer.   Each fellow spends half time on a mentored research project. The other half of the job is supporting the Island Campus programming by greeting island visitors, serving as an educational resource, and helping to maintain the islands.

This year we are delighted  to have Lily Santomenna ‘23 returning to the Island Campus as the Senior Summer Fellow.   Lily will lead the fellows team to deliver programming support the over 2,000 guests that will visit Allen Island this summer.   Lily will work closely with Jake Ward, Island Campus Manager to provide a safe and welcoming teaching and research environment.   Lily will graduate in May with a degree in History.   Her island research has focused on the connection between the Cod industry in Maine and its financial connection to the West Indies in the supply of refuse-grade Cod to feed enslaved people in the colonies, which enriched both the colonies and imperial countries. She also tracked the financial impact in both the West Indies and in Maine. Lily is thrilled to have the opportunity to be back on the island again this summer, and looks forward to getting started! 

Three new Fellows will join Lily on the Island Campus for the summer of 2023.  A short description of their research projects are provided below. 

The Island Campus: An Oasis for Interdisciplinary Study at Colby CollegeEden Mayer ‘25

Allen Island has quickly become a prominent feature of the Colby community and a physical example of the many opportunities for exploration and experimentation the college provides. This project aims to highlight and research how Allen Island is connected to the overlap of disciplines such as art, Indigenous history, and the study of the environment prevalent in Colby’s current programs and teachings.

Recently, a post on the communication website “Where Art and Science Intersect” highlighted the connection between art and environmental topics by using an art installation to demonstrate to viewers how climate change is causing warming in the Gulf of Maine. Colby, in particular, the Buck Lab, has been growing and promoting this pairing of art and science. For example, Amanda Lilleston’s course Print as Transformation highlights Allen Island as an intersection of art and environment. Having taken this course, I see Allen Island through a widened and diversified lens. This experience will help guide my independent research and provide outreach to grow the Colby community’s interest in the island.

To show these many intersections, I will research and produce a podcast focused on the island’s deep history in Maine and with art through its ties to the Wyeth family, but also how its preservation has provided an excellent source of material for those in environmental studies. Exploring these topics by communicating with professors such as Lilleston or Green in the art department, who made the island a part of their classes, will provide a range of stories surrounding the many facets of Allen Island. This would provide substantial material for exciting conversations to show the value of the Island Campus to the broader Colby community and prospective students.

Each podcast episode will highlight a different aspect or essential piece of the island and its relationship to Colby, focusing predominantly on environmental studies and art. Starting with its history and how it became a feature of Colby College, the episodes will create a season’s worth of listening that will go beyond the connections made or promoted by the school to develop an in-depth show by talking to experts and professors, creating links between their work and the island today. The final episode will examine how the other fellowship students utilized the island throughout the summer to better their learning and research.

Living on the island will provide the necessary sensory and hands-on experience to accurately portray the island and define the importance of place. But it will also offer closer access to campus or local museums or historical sites that may aid research. Sharing this research through a podcast format will allow for multiple voices to be represented and make the final project accessible to a wide range of people. The format will also allow for a viable project that would enable attention to be equally given between independent work and aiding in the maintenance and care of the island.

Creating a podcast about Allen Island will connect the island and campus and the relationship between ranging interests, highlighting one of the critical values of an interdisciplinary and liberal arts education at Colby.

Soundscapes and Imaging – Abdel Abdelsadig ‘26

The goal of my summer research project on Allen Island is to document the biological and physical characters of the north and south coastal areas of Allen Island through sounds and images. More specifically, I will build a soundscape of the two coastal areas with correlating images. The emerging field of soundscape ecology allows for a broader understanding of the dynamics of natural areas, from discerning present species to how natural sounds influence the development of individuals’ sense of place, place attachment, and connection to nature (Pijanowski et al., 2011). I will set up sound monitors that record the changing intensity of the waves and a programmable camera to capture images at specific times so that people can have a better understanding of the dynamics of the environment on the island, and especially how the two ends of the island differ with exposure. Whether it’s high-tide or low-tide I will have corresponding images and correlate them to the changing sound intensities of the waves. These images and sounds will also contribute to ongoing projects to virtually map the island.

A secondary question to ask through this research is, is the intensity or power of the wave, as reflected in acoustic energy, correlated to the appearance of the wave? And is that in turn affected by the time of day or the actual tide cycle? This research has many applications and can be used in many ways, one of the most exciting is allowing people to see what the island’s coasts look and sound like in different conditions, like during a storm or on a bright sunny day.

Having both visual and acoustic records of the island’s coast will build a basis for any future research on the tides and coastal ecology of the island. Integrating these two data sets will allow us to draw many conclusions about the island’s ecology and coastal development from now on. I plan to use this data to find correlations between the power and appearance of waves but there are many applications for each individual data set without pairing them up. With the image data, you could find things like the change in the appearance of the coast from season to season. With the acoustic data you could get averages for the power of the waves at different times of the year and see weather impacts on the wave’s power. This will not only allow me to get my own data but provide a strong base for future Colby students and professors on which to build their own research.

Trematode Parasites in the Intertidal ZoneMargaret Staller ‘23

I am excited to spend my second summer on the island continuing research on the prevalence of trematode parasites in the intertidal zone. This summer’s research provides an unique opportunity to round out the year of data collection I started last summer, greatly strengthening the publication I plan to submit to a peer-reviewed journal. Additional findings will add novel detail to the picture of variability in parasite prevalence within different species of host snail and across the patchwork of different microhabitats found in Allen Island’s rocky intertidal zone, and contribute to the quality of my response to the fundamental question of how extinction may affect the prevalence of trematode parasites.

I began my fieldwork on Allen Island during the summer of 2022 as a research assistant for Prof. Allison Barner. In addition to helping with monthly maintenance and data collection at species removal plots on the exposed side of the island, I collected data for my honors thesis in Biology. Throughout the summer and this academic year, I have collected and dissected over 1,000 intertidal snails. I have also spent considerable time developing a process for collecting and processing snail samples, and familiarizing myself with the endosymbiotic organisms found within the snails, and thus feel confident in my ability to continue working with remote supervision from Prof. Barner.

Working towards publishing this data would be an extraordinary educational experience in itself, as I continue to learn about the process of conducting research in ecology from the start of a project to its conclusion. Publication is a step beyond an honors thesis that many undergraduates do not have the opportunity to complete. As I consider pursuing an advanced degree in the field, I would value the chance to gain practical experience and to continue learning how to work independently.

Apart from my growing interest in learning about the Island’s intertidal ecosystem, I count myself lucky to be a part of a fundamentally place-based project. Given Allen Island’s opportune location on one of the fastest-warming parts of the ocean on the planet, the need for a deeper understanding of its marine ecology is pressing.