DV-18-08 Building a Maine Midden Minders Network for statewide citizen science

Alice Kelley

School of Earth and Climate Sciences

University of Maine


More than 2,000 historic Wabanaki shell middens are located on the coast of Maine.  These human-created accumulations of shells, faunal remains, and artifacts were once seen as trash heaps, but are now viewed as archives of over 4,000 years of coastal lifeways and environmental information. Virtually all are eroding as a result of rising sea level and changing climate conditions. Kelley studied ways to analyze and survey middens as part of a 2016 Sea Grant research project, including a workshop in which participants called for monitoring and preservation of middens. This effort is a direct outcome of the Sea Grant research project.


Knowledge of the current conditions of Maine shell middens is uneven, with some sites not professionally observed since their documentation two to three decades ago. Traditional archaeological excavations are limited by available resources, and can only evaluate two to three middens per year, leaving large information gaps. As threats to these sites increase, knowledge about erosion trends and processes at these sites can provide information for preservation planning and response to imminent threats. This project seeks to develop a citizen science monitoring network, website, and associated database to monitor and collect long-term shell midden erosion information along the entire coast of Maine by building a community of citizen science “Midden Minders.”


Sea Grant funds: $4,110

Additional support from Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainable Solutions

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