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USM Art Students Raising Awareness of Sea-Level Rise

USM Art students enrolled in theSpecial Topics art class, Shaping the Terrain: Sea Level Change in Casco Bay, have designed and constructed a temporary art installation in downtown Portland with the goal of raising awareness about the rise in sea levels.

The installation, “King Tides Trail,” spans 4.1 miles of Portland’s Bayside and Eastern Promenade trails.

“Much of Bayside and East Bayside was once part of Back Cove,” said Jan Piribeck, USM art professor who is overseeing the trail project. “At extremely high ‘King Tides,’ the area sees extensive flooding around storm sewers. The King Tides Trail helps people visualize where high tides would fall if sea levels rise three feet in coming decades.”

Students designed the trail using GPS and inundation maps to determine sea-level rise locations, in consultation with Peter Slovinsky, coastal geologist of the Maine Geological Survey.

USM art student Samantha Quimby noted that the red marking-whiskers used in the installation “are a physical representation of the data we have been working with. We’ve been using a red line to mark the potential waters’ edge in a 3-foot sea-level-rise scenario.” 

The students also are using sidewalk decals along the trail at locations that are significant observation points for high tide events. To help visitors explore the length of the 4.1 mile trail -- from Bayside to the Old Port -- students will install beacons made from solar lamps and wooden posts, and they have created a King Tide Trail Google map.

The trail officially opens on Monday, December 8 at noon. The public is invited to join USM students and faculty for an opening reception and trail walk, beginning at the western terminus of the Bayside Trail on Elm Street.

This educational installation is part of a Gulf of Maine King Tides Project, which held a region-wide photo contest featuring images of the extreme high tide on Oct. 9, 2014. Funding support for this educational installation came from the Limulus Fund at the Maine Community Foundation through the Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment’s Climate Network, which coordinates the Gulf of Maine King Tides Project. Additionally, the project is tied to Envisioning Changea Digital Humanities project funded through the University of Maine’s Maine Economic Improvement Fund. 

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