Sensing Storm Surge
A Maine Citizen Science Effort

Do you want to be a leader in your community?
Do you want to engage in meaningful research?
Do you want to collaborate with UMaine?



Learn more

Storm Surge Impact in Maine

Photos courtesy of the Bangor Daily News

In February 1976, downtown Bangor was rapidly inundated with 12 feet of Penobscot River water in less than 15 minutes (Morrill et al., 1979). The quickly rising water levels trapped people in cars, buildings and on rooftops in frigid temperatures. The damage to personal property was extensive, estimated at approximately $2.6 million (Morrill et al., 1979), which is equivalent to over $10 million today. This particular flood event occurred because Bangor is uniquely located along a tidal river that contracts or “funnels” as it meanders inland. Off the coast of Maine, an extratropical cyclone produced south-southeasterly winds, which created significant storm surge. As the surge was pushed inland, it was amplified by the narrowing shoreline of the Penobscot River, which combined with high tide to produce extraordinary water elevations (Morrill et al., 1979).

To date, researchers have relied on models to represent idealized scenarios of storm surge behavior; however, without detailed observations to capture how storm surge behaves inside an estuary, actual effects remain a mystery. To explore this problem, this project aims to develop an improved understanding of storm surge behavior in three Maine estuaries with varying physical properties. A network of citizen scientists will deploy and maintain a system of water level loggers during hurricane and nor-Easter season in Bass Harbor, the Bagaduce River, and the Penobscot River.


What We Do

This research will empower citizen scientists to become and remain an integral voice in the discussion of environmental change adaptation in their communities. Understanding storm surge impacts is a current priority for many communities in coastal Maine, as well as for local, state and federal agencies with local interests, such as the National Park Service.

With your help, we will create storm surge maps in three Maine estuaries. We will also document how you and your fellow citizens think about storm surge and coastal adaptation. Our research findings will be shared at science cafe events in each of the three communities


How You Can Contribute

We need volunteers like you! With your help, we will observe and document storm surge events in Bass Harbor, the Penobscot River and the Bagaduce River. Such an effort will improve local knowledge about storm vulnerability in Maine.

Individual citizen scientists will be maintaining a water level logger that will be moored at a waterfront field site. Citizens will visit the sites monthly to download the data, which will then be uploaded to the project website. If you are interested in participating, you can signup here.

Participation requirements:

  • Attendance at a beginning of the project training
  • Regular access to an internet-enabled computer
    • Windows: Windows 8 and 8.1 (Core, Pro), Windows 7 (Pro, Ultimate and Home Premium), Windows 10 (Home, Pro).
    • Windows 7 Enterprise: Note: While HOBOware has been modified to work on Windows 7 Enterprise, there may be local configurations of that operating system that will not work with HOBOware.
    • Mac: OS X Versions 10.9.x, 10.10.x, 10.11.x and 10.12.x.
    • Java Runtime Environment (JRE) 1.7.0_17 and above (32-bit or 64-bit on Windows).
    • One of the following Internet browsers: Safari 7 and 8, Microsoft Internet Explorer 10 and 11, as well as the most recent versions of Firefox and Google Chrome.
  • Ability to use equipment specific software (training will be provided)
  • Monthly data collection at specified field site and upload to project website from approximately June 2017 through March 2018
  • Ability to lift 15 pounds
  • Voluntary participation in interviews and surveys

Recruitment is ongoing. In person trainings will take place in June 2017. The sensor network will be deployed approximately through June 2017 to March 2018. Science cafe events will take place in each study area in summer 2018.

I want to participate


Our Team

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Kimberly Huguenard, Ph.D.

Dr. Huguenard is an Assistant Professor of Ocean and Marine Engineering, who joined the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at the University of Maine in August 2015. She is also a faculty member of the Sustainable Ecological Aquaculture Network (SEANET). Her research interests include studying the impact of climate change, as well as mixing and transport processes in estuaries and coasts.
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Laura Rickard, Ph.D.

Dr. Rickard is an Assistant Professor of Risk Communication who joined the Department of Communication and Journalism at the University of Maine in August 2015. She is also a faculty member of the Sustainable Ecological Aquaculture Network (SEANET). She is a social scientist who researches risk perceptions, climate change communication, and behavioral intentions and decision-making related to environmental issues.
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Abe Miller-Rushing, Ph.D.

Dr. Miller-Rushing is a biologist, ecologist and phenologist with experience in citizen science and climate change projects. He currently serves as Science Coordinator for Acadia National Park. He has participated in two peer-reviewed publications on citizen science, including one recently published in Science in 2014. Dr. Miller-Rushing is well connected with environmental organizations across Maine, including the Ecosystem Indicator Partnership, and the Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment.
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Kevin Duffy

Kevin Duffy is a first-year doctoral student in the Communication and Journalism Department at the University of Maine. He is a social scientist within the Sustainable Ecological Aquaculture Network (SEANET) and is researching risk messaging under the guidance of Dr. Rickard. Duffy received a Master’s in Journalism from Michigan State University. His research interests include media effects, risk perception, visual communication, and community-based resource management.
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Abby Roche

Abby Roche is a second year Master's student in the Communication and Journalism Department at the University of Maine who plans to begin a Ph.D degree in the Fall of 2017. She serves as a teaching assistant for the Communication and Journalism department, and a summer research assistant at UMaine. Roche is a social scientist whose research applies theoretical tools from the Communication discipline in order to do applied sustainability research.
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Kyah Lucky

Kyah Lucky is a fourth year undergraduate student in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at the University of Maine. She is an undergraduate research assistant in the areas of coastal engineering and geotechnical engineering.