Science & Art

From the first Maine Science Festival (MSF) in 2015, arts organizations have been a vital partner, providing a way to introduce science in a format that is inviting and different from most ways people learn about science. While "symphony" and "science" are not necessarily connected in most people's minds, THE WARMING SEA is an almost perfect example of what the Maine Science Festival has been trying to do to achieve its mission: use every possible avenue to celebrate and explore the remarkable science in Maine and the people who do (and rely on) that science. Through this kind of programming, collaborative projects have arisen out of the connections made at every MSF and continue today. Our most ambitious project has been a direct result of our collaboration with the arts: in January 2019, the MSF commissioned Composer Lucas Richman to write The Warming Sea – a symphonic exploration of hope in the face of the climate crisis.

The Warming Sea has been informed by interviews with climate scientists and experts up and down the coast of Maine along with conversations with middle school students. This symphonic piece presents a complex - and sometimes overwhelming - issue, providing a deeper understanding of how climate change is impacting the earth than data alone has been able to convey. With The Warming Sea, we are committed to having a conversation about the climate crisis by using more than just data and figures. The Warming Sea symphonic piece presents climate change through the lens of music, and we hope it will provide a deeper understanding of how climate change is impacting the earth. By coupling this piece with Maine scientists, Richman’s journey as he learned about climate change in Maine and the reaction and expertise of the experts that Richman met with, is the first step of a meaningful journey for our audience about the climate crisis and what we can do about it.  

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A message from Kate Dickerson

I love science and scientists. I studied chemistry in college and I've spent my professional life surrounded by scientists and engineers. Science has been the foundation in my career starting with environmental cleanups, then policy work, and now public science events. I think scientists are our unsung heroes, working to figure out the world around us with a passion that few get to see. I am also a huge fan of the arts, but my love for them borders more on awe. Artists of all kinds are able to convey ideas and passions in a way that I find inspiring and magical, all the more so because it is so foreign to my background and training.

 

One of the major areas of scientific investigation and expertise in Maine is climate change. It was some of those scientists who confirmed that the Gulf of Maine is warming faster than 99% of the oceans, and other scientists and experts are exploring exactly what this means for Maine and the world. 

 

I’ve known about climate change since the late 1980’s - back when we called it “global warming”. But because I have been immersed in the world of science and the environment, I didn’t realize that I was in the minority with regards to understanding climate change. And even though the fact of climate change has finally been acknowledged by virtually everyone, scientists and science-reliant people still have a difficult time communicating the science of climate change, including what we know, what it means, and what we can do. It has become clear to me that we need more visceral ways to understand climate change than science alone has been able to provide. That is what inspired me to have the Maine Science Festival commission Lucas Richman to write The Warming Sea.

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Collaborators

Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences is an independent, nonprofit research institute located in East Boothbay, Maine. From the Arctic to the Antarctic, Bigelow Laboratory scientists use innovative approaches to study the foundation of global ocean health and unlock its potential to improve the future for all life on our planet. Bigelow’s primary research focus is on the microbial life and biogeochemical dynamics of the world’s ocean, advancing society’s understanding of the interactions between ocean ecosystems, global processes, and the environment.

 

Friends of Casco Bay is a community of people who care about Casco Bay. Their mission is to improve and protect the environmental health of Casco Bay. Concerned citizens formed Friends of Casco Bay/Casco Baykeeper® in 1989, after a report identified the waters as one of the most polluted regions in the nation. Friends of Casco Bay works to keep Casco Bay blue through monitoring the health of the Bay, inspiring residents and businesses to take care of our coastal waters, supporting efforts to reduce pollution, and advocating for strong protections for the Bay.

 

Climate Change Institute (CCI) at the University of Maine is one of the oldest climate research units in the United States and among the first with a multi- and inter-disciplinary focus. CCI is a global leader in climate change research, with CCI investigations spanning the last 2 million years to the present. CCI has a legacy of major scientific contributions to understanding the timing, causes, and mechanisms of natural and human-forced climate change, and on the effects of physical and chemical climate changes on the biological, economic, social, and political conditions of humans and the ecosystem. 

The interviews
 

A sample of conversations from 2019
which inspired Lucas in his process of composing 
The Warming Sea

 

The science

“If I were a lobster, to me it would be

stressful, chaotic, sort of frenetic... heart

racing... because these are all really

stressful conditions.”

Heather Hamlin, University of Maine

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How do you help a deeply accomplished composer learn about climate change in 4 months? What science do you talk about? We decided on the equivalent of a crash course in these areas:

• What are towns and organizations doing to address climate change? Everything from moving services and buildings to increasing the amount of buffer to rising waters via ecosystems like salt marshes was addressed by our experts.

• How is a warming climate affecting microbial life in the ocean?

• Ocean acidification - how it's happening & what is being studied to mitigate it?

• Data monitoring & analyses from 200 years worth of weather data to daily monitoring of Casco Bay, Lucas learned how this data informs what we know about Maine climate now and what we might expect in the coming years.

• How are Maine’s fisheries being impacted by warmer waters?

Image from Climate Reanalyzer, showing the sea surface temperature as measured on March 1, 2021, and compared to the average sea surface temperature from the baseline years of 1979-2000. Reference Image/Data Source: NOAA OISST V2.1  [1971-2000 base] from Climate Reanalyzer (https://ClimateReanalyzer.org), Climate Change Institute, University of Maine, USA."

Hope Begins with Truth
A message from Lucas Richman

When Kate Dickerson, Founder and Director of the Maine Science Festival, commissioned me to compose a musical work examining the effects of climate change in the Gulf of Maine and its destructive impact on the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, I could not have imagined the scope of the journey upon which we were both about to embark. The Gulf of Maine is warming faster than 99% of all the world’s oceans and I realized that, for the piece to be more than just an emotional response to an issue about which I knew very little beyond normal news consumption, it would be imperative for me to become better educated about global warming and the multitude of efforts being employed to head it off at the pass.

Kate arranged a series of discussions for me with numerous scientists and town managers by which I might learn about their work as they focus on the ravages of climate change upon the environment, be it on land or on the ocean. Each interview was an invaluable contribution to a sort-of personal graduate-level seminar with every bit of information becoming wound into a fabric imprinted with patterns and images not yet in focus. How was I going to translate reams of data and experiences into musical notes — and to what end?

 

The answer came as a result of the multiple outreach visits we also made to middle school classes before I had written one note of the piece. We spoke to the students about climate science and the process of composing a new symphonic work. Towards the end of each session, I posed the question, “What would you, as the next generation, like the final message of this piece to be?” Across the board, it became clear the students wished the piece could inspire hope for their generation and future generations. This understanding became the basis for the message sung by the children as an anthem in the final moments of the work: “Hope begins with Truth.” In other words, accept the science and future generations might have a fighting chance against the rapidly encroaching disaster before us.

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Adaptation

Climate change and the crisis that is unfolding is the single biggest threat to human life on earth, yet we are only just starting to really grapple with the vast impact it will have. Scientists have been studying the impact of climate change since 1938, and have known of it as a theory since the 1850s. Even though the science itself is long-settled, this is a deep challenge for the global community: climate change has not (until recently) been recognized by the public as an existential threat in the same way that other threats like smallpox, the ozone hole, and even the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic have been.

As part of The Warming Sea event, we will be providing our audience with actions that they can do now to address the climate crisis. These actions, relying on research and curated by experts, will include both individual and systemic actions that are necessary to help address the climate crisis now. In addition to providing information for the headliner audience, the MSF will be reaching out to our international network of public science events with a programming package that they can use and build off of to present a similar program in their community. Richman and the BSO will reach out to their nationwide network of orchestras and musicians with the same programming package. We hope to have at least two other partner groups signed up/interested in performing The Warming Sea package within a year following the world premiere.

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The team

Kate Dickerson is the Founder and Director of the Maine Science Festival. Prior to founding the Maine Science Festival, she worked in the energy and environmental field for more than 20 years. Kate has worked for industry, nonprofits, and educational institutions, and has expertise in the areas of environmental policy, pollution prevention, and environmental cleanup, with positions in Providence, Rhode Island; Seattle, WA; and the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at the University of Maine focusing on policy work. As Founder & Director of the MSF, Kate has built a hugely collaborative partnership of diverse organizations and companies throughout the state, culminating in an annual celebration of Maine science, technology, engineering, and innovation.

 

Maranda Bouchard As soon as Maranda discovered that crayons were for more than just eating, her passion for art was born. As a multimedia artist with a background in photography and graphic design, Maranda’s talent has taken her to New York City and back to her hometown of Bangor, where she is currently the Marketing Director for the Maine Discovery Museum. Maranda is grateful to use her skillset to champion important causes, with a focus on promoting the importance of STEM education for children, and the impact of climate change.

Lucas Richman GRAMMY award-winning conductor Lucas Richman has served as Music Director for the Bangor Symphony Orchestra since 2010 and held the position as Music Director for the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra from 2003-2015. Over the course of nearly four decades on the podium, he has garnered an international reputation for his graceful musical leadership in a diverse field of media. In concert halls, orchestral pits, and recording studios around the world, Lucas earns rave reviews for his artful collaborations with artists in both the classical and commercial music arenas.

 

Niles Parker is the Executive Director of the Maine Discovery Museum in Bangor, Maine. Niles has worked in museums for thirty years, including the Penobscot Marine Museum, the Nantucket Historical Association, the New York State Historical Association, National Baseball Hall of Fame, and the North Carolina Museum of History. Niles has led MDM's strategic focus on STEM programming, pushing to promote increased public science education for early childhood and K-5 learners.

Brian Hinrichs has served as executive director of the Bangor Symphony Orchestra since 2013. A cellist by training, he went on to receive his MBA at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and previously held positions with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, Madison Opera, and Glimmerglass Festival. In 2007, he was a Fulbright U.S. Student Fellow in ethnomusicology in Thailand, and his writing has appeared in Symphony Magazine, Opera America Magazine, and ArtsFwd.org.

Chuck Carter has been a digital artist for over 35 years. He's been involved in video games since 1991 and worked on the highly successful game Myst. After Myst, Chuck worked on the Command and Conquer series and some 25 other games, and was a special effects artist on the shows Babylon 5 and Mortal Kombat Crusades, and on the motion rides "Star Trek: The Experience" and Disney's "Mission to Mars". Chuck is also an accomplished science illustrator and animator, regularly illustrating for NASA, National Geographic, Scientific American, and McGraw Hill Publishing, among others. His recent work includes co-authoring and illustrating Exploring Geology, with Stephen Reynolds, a college science textbook with McGraw-Hill. Chuck is currently the Creative Director for Standard Magic.

 

Jeremy Grant grew up in the Maine woods with no running water and no electricity and fell deeply in love with the outdoors at a young age. After graduating from Ellsworth High School, Jeremy traveled all over the U.S. and Europe, doing various jobs and “having a blast.” Jeremy returned to Maine, settled down, and was working with a roofing company when he was introduced to using drones for photography, in this case, to capture the finished roofing jobs. He found himself drawn past the rooftops and towards the beautiful scenery of Maine. Jeremy wanted to make longer videos about the people, places, and all that Maine has to offer, so he put together his love of adventure and the beauty of Maine to create the media company The Timber Cross, where his mission is to inspire others to explore the outdoors and themselves. Jeremy wants to help people truly discover something awesome.

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An exploration of hope

in the face of the climate crisis.