Creating the Midden Minders Citizen Science Program

Expedition Dates:  Summer & Fall 2019; Summer & Fall 2018

Expedition Field Team Members:  Alice Kelley1,2, Bonnie Newsom1,3, Arthur Spiess4

1 – University of Maine – Climate Change Institute

2 – University of Maine – School of Earth and Climate Sciences

3 – University of Maine – Department of Anthropology  

4 – Maine Historic Preservation Commission, Augusta, Maine

Expedition Funding:  Maine Sea Grant, Senator George Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions


Maine’s coastal shell middens are eroding in the face of climate-change related factors: sea-level rise, increased storminess and storm intensity, and growing numbers of freeze-thaw events in the winter. These features record thousands of years of coastal occupation and paleoenvironmental information through the preservation of organic materials that is unique in the region. The Midden Minders is a citizen science program designed to document, monitor and preserve valuable information that is lost through the erosion of shell middens.  Volunteers use simple tools to record changes at shell middens and contribute information to a specially designed database.  This information will both document a vanishing resource and provide information for future cultural resource decisions.

Photo credit: Alice KelleyGlidden Midden, Damariscotta, Maine.

Expedition members participated in a number of visits to shell middens throughout the field season to assess eroding shell middens, meet and train volunteers, and educate the public about this vanishing resource.