Maine Treeline Project: Coring at Chimney Pond, Baxter State Park, Maine

Expedition Dates: March 6-10, 2018

Field Team Members:  Caitlin McDonough MacKenzie (CCI), Dulcinea Groff (CCI), Kit Hamley (CCI), and Karen James

Expedition Funding Acknowledgement:  David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellowship

Acknowledgement:  Baxter State Park

Expedition Report:

Topographically complex landscapes in the northeastern U.S. harbor conservation legacies and regionally unique plant populations. Baxter State Park’s mountain habitats have long histories as protected land, but their alpine and subalpine plants — culturally and ecologically important resources —  comprise small, disjunct populations at the southern edge of their circumboreal or circumarctic distributions. Models of lower montane species migrating upslope mediated by warmer temperatures suggest that these alpine and subalpine communities are highly vulnerable to climate change. These alpine and subalpine assemblages have been interpreted as post-glacial tundra relicts, however paleoecological records above treeline in the northeast are sparse and this assumption remains untested. Chimney Pond (elevation 881 m) on Katahdin, sits below the highest and largest alpine habitat in Maine. In March 2018, we used a hand-held ice auger to open two holes through 52 cm of ice and recovered 502.5 cm of sediment from two parallel cores. We were able to extrude cores “in the field” by carrying the modified Livingstone square-rod piston sampler ~0.1 mile into the cabin at Chimney Pond camp site, measuring and describing the core segments by the wood stove. The research team enjoyed the finest amenities for winter backcountry field work — our cabin was cozy, the skiing  was excellent, and on our final night the clouds cleared for some breathtaking stargazing. We appreciate the incredible support of Baxter State Park rangers, especially Jensen Bissell and Mike Martin, who helped us with logistics and facilitated the transportation of our coring equipment and the sediment cores.
Examining coring equipment.
Photo 1: Kit Hamley and Karen James examine our coring equipment on Chimney Pond.


Digging out Ice Hole.
Photo 2: Karen James and Dulcinea Groff lend moral support to Caitlin McDonough MacKenzie while she digs out our ice hole following fresh snow fall.


Driving Coring Rod.
Caitlin holds a coring rod on a drive to collect more sediment from Chimney Pond.


Freshly-Extruded Core Segment in cabin.
Caitlin, Karen, and Dulcinea describe a freshly-extruded core segment in the cabin.