Thank You, Chris Bartlett!
Report by William Hunter
Borders are no obstacle for marine scientist Chris Bartlett. While being a native of Maine, Bartlett has been a steward for nature on both sides of the border and an ally to Nature NB for many years. In fact, he is leading the Festival of Nature’s most well-attended excursion, our Saturday morning boat trip to Whitehorse island!
Said IBA program coordinator, Adam Cheeseman, “Chris has been one of our most dedicated, dependable and valuable volunteers. His deep passion for our oceans, wildlife and nature shines through in any interaction. We are incredibly lucky at Nature NB to have him serve as a caretaker for the Quoddy region IBA.”
Bartlett’s love for the environment, and especially the marine world, started at a young age. Growing up in Maine, Bartlett still recalls fondly memories of playing near the sea. Said Bartlett: “Having grown up along the coast, the ocean is integral to my quality of life. I remember my parents would take my brother and I out on vacation to the Maine coast each year, and you just couldn’t keep me out of the tidepool. I’d be rummaging underneath rocks and seaweed for flora and fauna… Sea creatures just totally fascinated me!”
Bartlett’s love for aquatic life has turned into a lifelong career, taking him from Maine to New Brunswick, and even Alaska. During this time, he has been involved in several projects, from counting Minke Whales and birds, to studying commercial fishing and aquaculture. In fact, since 1995, Bartlett has worked for the University of Maine as a Marine Extension Associate, looking at ways to share scientific knowledge with the public, especially to inform decision-making and policy for local companies, governments and communities.
“Extension is about sharing knowledge to and from the academic world, regulators and our communities, so that we can all make better and informed decisions…. It is this interchange of ideas that strengthens our appreciation and knowledge of oceans in our communities.”
Bartlett is passionate about his work, and has loved the opportunity to engage with community members to develop his own knowledge, especially through working with indigenous groups. Said Bartlett: “We should reach out to everyone in our communities, and our indigenous neighbors should always be included. There is a lot of history in this region that goes far back beyond European settlement, and it is so important when doing conservation to engage in that.”
This work in community also led Bartlett to Nature NB. After stumbling across our NB Naturalist, Bartlett reached out to us in 2015 about helping with our Important Bird Areas (IBA) program, recognizing potential in collaborating with an organization like ours across the border.
“It’s great to have an organization like Nature NB that educates and informs people about the importance of our regional ecology and advocates to conserve for wider use as well. Nature NB offered an opportunity for me to serve as an Important Bird Area steward, because you had a program in place where my observations could be valuable information.”
Photo: Kathy Tenga-Gonzalas
Bartlett is also eager to take Festival of Nature participants out on the open water to visit Whitehorse Island, the southernmost colony of black-legged kittiwakes. Said Bartlett: “It’s a great opportunity to educate folks and take in the marvel of this seabird nesting colony that you don’t get to see in very many other areas of New Brunswick. The kittiwakes are also such a beautiful and resilient species of bird nestling along the cliff sides… These are not the gulls you would see eating french fries in a McDonald’s parking lot!”
As well, Bartlett really wants to encourage both New Brunswickers and Mainers to get involved in citizen science, whether submitting observations to apps like e-bird, sharing information of fish catches, or serving as a fellow IBA caretaker: “The strength in citizen science is in the numbers. If it’s just one person recording, it’s not nearly as valuable than if there’s a dozen, or twenty, or three hundred people doing it. For me, it was about my passion for a place, in that I feel it is important to share my observations of this special Quoddy region IBA, so that it can be useful in conservation. That makes my visits more worthwhile… It makes me feel like I’m making a difference.”
He continues. “One of the things that helps me through frustrating times is that I always find partners, colleagues, and friends, so that when we work together, we seem to hold onto the optimism that we can improve things. That’s really what keeps me going.”
Chris, it is folks like you that keep us going! We, at Nature NB, are so grateful for your lifetime of service championing conservation of our marine environments, in both the United States and Canada. We are lucky to count you as a partner, colleague and volunteer, and we are excited that you will join us at the Festival of Nature. Thank you, Chris, and congrats on being this month’s Nature Hero!
Photo: Black-Legged Kittiwakes on Whitehorse Island, Christ Bartlett (Flickr)