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Portrait of Visionary Jane Disney.Jane Disney, Director, Mount Desert Island Water Quality Coalition in Maine (MDIWQC)

Since 1997, Jane Disney has worked through the MDIWQC to engage school children, teachers, parents, community volunteers, and a wide diversity of local residents to learn about and address water quality related issues affecting the bays and shallow coastal waters adjoining Mount Desert Island.

Inter-related water quality issues include

(a) increasing pressures of development on coastal watersheds and shorelines; leading to

(b) increases in polluted runoff from streets, lawns and septic systems; which in turn

(c) contaminates beaches, dumps excessive nutrients in shallow coastal waters, and encourages blooms of toxic phytoplankton including the 'red tides'. This deterioration of coastal water quality is exacerbated by

(d) chronic over- harvesting of marine resources and

(e) associated destruction of eelgrass beds which were critical habitat and nurseries for many marine species.

Consequently, once productive waters around Mount Desert Island are today almost empty of cod, mackerel, halibut, herring, flounder and many other valuable species. Families dependent on fishing for generations are now lining up to catch the remaining lobsters, or 'scraping the bottom of the barrel' to eke livelihoods from dwindling populations of mussels and mudflat worms - or looking for other work.

Jane started her work with school children at Seal Harbor Beach. The students monitored water quality to identify pollution issues that threatened public health. From that start, the water quality coalition gathered momentum and now includes regular surveys of clam flats and the shoreline; plankton and beach monitoring; research and education at the Community Environmental Health Laboratory, which runs in partnership with the MDI Biological Laboratory in Salisbury Cove; a model eelgrass restoration project near Hadley Point; and work with over 400 students in internships and community outreach programs.

In the fall of 2007, the Gulf of Maine Council presented a Visionary Award to Jane Disney, recognizing her innovation, creativity and commitment to protecting the marine environment of the Gulf of Maine. This was one of two such awards given out in Maine.


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